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Full text of "A dark night's work : and other tales"

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THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 




ENDOWED BY THE 

DIALECTIC AND PHILANTHROPIC 

SOCIETIES 



1897 






This BOOK may be kept out TWO 
WEEKS ONLY, and is subject to a fine 
of FIVE CENTS a day thereafter.. It was 
taken out on the day indicated below : ^^ 






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5Mar'34 




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UNIVERSITY OF N.C. AT CHAPEL HILL 



10001362204 



A DARK NIGHT'S WORK 

AND OTHER TALES 



POCKET EDITION 

OF 

MRS. GASKELL'S WORKS. 

In Eight Volumes, bound in Half-Cloth, 
with cut or uncut edges. 

Price is, 6d, per Volume. 



CONTENTS OF THE VOLUMES i— 

1. WIVES AND DAUGHTERS. 

2. NORTH AND SOUTH. 

3. SYLVIA'S LOVERS. 

4. CRANFORD, and other Tales. 

5. MARY BARTON, and other Tales. 

6. RUTH, and other Tales. 

7. A DARK NIGHT'S WORK, and other Tales. 

8. MY LADY LUDLOW, and other Tales. 

*^* Mrs. GaskelVs Works 7nay also be had in Seven Volumes, small 
post 8v0y liTHp clothy or cloth boards^ gilt iop^ price is, 6d. 
each ; or, with Four Illustrations to each Volume^ crown Zvo^ 
3^. ^d. each. 



LONDON: SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE. 



A t^f7 
DARK NIGHT'S WORK 

AND OTHER TALES 
MRS. GASKELL 



LONDON 
SMITH. ELDER, & CO.. 15 WATERLOO PLACE 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

A DARK night's WORK 7 

COUSIN PHILLIS 167 

THE GREY WOMAN 259 

THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON . , -312 

TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS . 335 

SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM .... 349 

LIZZIE LEIGH 386 

THE CROOKED BRANCH 418 

THE sexton's HERO . o , , . . 463 






V 



A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 



CHAPTER I. 

IN the county town of a certain shire there lived (about forty 
years ago) one Mr. Wilkins, a conveyancing attorney of 
considerable standing. 

The certain shire was but a small county, and the principal 
town in it contained only about four thousand inhabitants ; so 
in saying that Mr. Wilkins was the principal lawyer in Hamley, 
I say very little, unless i add that he tiransacted all the legal 
business of the gentry for tweety imaies Tound. His grandfather 
had established the connection :; ;his father had consolidated and 
strengthened it, and, indeed, by his wise and upright conduct, 
as -well as by his professional skill, had obtained for himself the 
position of confidential friend to many of the surrounding 
families of distinction. He -visited among them in a way which 
no mere lawyer had ever done before ; dined at their tables — he 
alone, not accompanied by his wife, be it observed ; rode to the 
meet occasionally as if by accident, ajLthough he was as well 
mounted as any squire among them, and was often persuaded 
(after a little coquetting about " professional engagements," and 
"being wanted at the office ") to have a run with his clients ; 
nay, once or twice he forgot his usual cautiom., was first in at the 
death, and rode home with the brush. But in general he knew 
his place ; as his place was held to be in that aristocratic county, 
and in those days. Nor let it be supposed that he was in any 
way a toad-eater. He respected himself too much for that. He 
would give the most unpalatable advice, if need were ; would 
counsel an unsparing reduction of expenditure to an extravagant 
man ; would recommend such an abatement of family pride as 
paved the way for one or two happy marriages in some instances ; 



8 A DARK night's WORK. 

nay, what was the most likely piece of conduct of all to give 
offence forty years ago, he would speak up for an unjustly-used 
tenant ; and that with so much temperate and well-timed wisdom 
and good feeling, that he more than once gained his point. He 
had one son, Edward. This boy was the secret joy and pride of 
his father's heart. For himself he was not in the least ambitious, 
but it did cost him a hard struggle to acknowledge that his own 
business was too lucrative, and brought in too large an income, 
to pass away into the hands of a stranger, as it would do if he 
indulged his ambition for his son by giving him a college educa- 
tion and making him into a barrister. This determination on 
the more prudent side of the argument took place while Edward 
was at Eton. The lad had, perhaps, the largest allowance of 
pocket-money of any boy at school ; and he had always looked 
forward to going to Christ Church along with his fellows, the 
sons of the squires, his father's employers. It was a severe mor- 
tification to him to find that his destiny was changed, and that 
he had to return to Hamley to be articled to his father, and to 
assume the hereditary subservient position to lads whom he had 
licked in the playground, and beaten at learning. 

His father tried to compensate him for the disappointment by 
every indulgence which money could purchase. Edward's horses 
were even finer than those of his father ; his literary tastes were 
kept up and fostered, by his father's permission to form an ex- 
tensive library, for which purpose a noble room was added to 
Mr. Wilkins's already extensive house in the suburbs of Hamley. 
And after his year of legal study in London his father sent him 
to make the grand tour, with something very like carte blanche 
as to expenditure, to judge from the packages which were sent 
home from various parts of the Continent. 

At last he came home — came back to settle as his father's 
partner at Hamley. He was a son to be proud of, and right 
down proud was old Mr. Wilkins of his handsome, accomplished, 
gentlemanly lad. For Edward was not one to be spoilt by the 
course of indulgence he had passed through ; at least, if it had 
done him an injury, the effects were at present hidden from view. 
He had no vulgar vices ; he was, indeed, rather too refined for 
the society he was likely to be thrown into, even supposing that 
society to consist of the highest of his father's employers. He 
was well read, and an artist of no mean pretensions. Above all, 
"his heart was in the right place," as his father used to observe. 



A DARK night's WORK. 9 

Nothing could exceed the deference he always showed to him. 
His mother had long been dead. 

I do not know whether it was Edward's own ambition or his 
proud father's wishes that had led him to attend the Hamley 
assemblies. I should conjecture the latter, for Edward had of 
himself too much good taste to wish to intrude into any society. 
In the opinion of all the shire, no society had more reason to 
consider itself select than that which met at every full moon in 
the Hamley assembly-room, an excrescence built on to the 
principal inn in the town by the joint subscription of all the 
county families. Into those choice and mysterious precincts no 
town's person was ever allowed to enter; no professional man 
might set his foot therein ; no infantry officer saw the interior of 
that ball or that card room. The old original subscribers 
would fain have had a man prove his sixteen quarterings before 
he might make his bow to the queen of the night ; but the old 
original founders of the Hamley assemblies were dropping off; 
minuets had vanished with them, country dances had died away ; 
quadrilles were in high vogue — nay, one or two of the high 

magnates of shire were trying to introduce waltzing, as they 

had seen it in London, where it had come in with the visit of 
the allied sovereigns, when Edward Wilkins made his dibut 
on these boards. He had been at many splendid assemblies 
abroad, but still the little old ball-room attached to the George 
Inn in his native town was to him a place grander and more 
awful than the most magnificent saloons he had seen in Paris 
or Rome. He laughed at himself for this unreasonable feeling 
of awe ; but there it was notwithstanding. He had been dining 
at the house of one of the lesser gentry, who was under con- 
siderable obligations to his father, and who was the parent of 
eight " muckle-moo'd " daughters, so hardly likely to oppose 
much aristocratic resistance to the elder Mr. Wilkins's clearly 
implied wish that Edward should be presented at the Hamley 
assembly-rooms. But many a squire glowered and looked black 
at the introduction of Wilkins the attorney's son into the sacred 
precincts ; and perhaps there would have been much more mor- 
tification than pleasure in this assembly to the young man, had 
it not been for an incident that occurred pretty late in the 
evening. The lord-lieutenant of the county usually came with 
a large party to the Hamley assemblies once in a season ; and 
this night he was expected, and with him a fashionable duchess 

A 2 



lO A DARK night's WORK. 

and her daughters. But time wore on, and they did not make 
their appearance. At last there was a rustling and a busthng, 
and in sailed the superb party. For a few minutes dancing was 
stopped ; the earl led the duchess to a sofa ; some of their ac- 
quaintances came up to speak to them ; and then the quadrilles 
were finished in rather a flat manner. A country dance followed, 
in which none of the lord-lieutenant's party joined ; then there 
was a consultation, a request, an inspection of the dancers, a 
message to the orchestra, and the band struck up a waltz ; the 
duchess's daughters flew off to the music, and some more young 
ladies seemed ready to follow, but, alas 1 there was a lack of 
gentlemen acquainted with the new-fashioned dance. One of 
the stewards bethought him of young Wilkins, only just returned 
from the Continent. Edward was a beautiful dancer, and 
waltzed to admiration. For his next partner he had one of 

the Lady s ; for the duchess, to whom the shire squires 

and their little county politics and contempts were alike un- 
known, saw no reason why her lovely Lady Sophy should 
not have a good partner, whatever his pedigree might be, and 
begged the stewards to introduce Mr. Wilkins to her. After 
this night his fortune was made with the young ladies of the 
Hamley assemblies. He was not unpopular with the mammas ; 
but the heavy squires still looked at him askance, and the heirs 
(whom he had licked at Eton) called him an upstart behind 
his back. 



CHAPTER n. 

It was not a satisfactory situation. Mr. Wilkins had given his 
son an education and tastes beyond his position. He could not 
associate with either profit or pleasure with the doctor or the 
brewer of Hamley ; the vicar was old and deaf, the curate a 
raw young man, half frightened at the sound of his own voice. 
Then, as to matrimony— for the idea of his marriage was hardly 
more present in Edward's mind than in that of his father — he 
could scarcely fancy bringing home any one of the young ladies 
of Hamley to the elegant mansion, so full of suggestion and 
association to an educated person, so inappropriate a dwelling 
for an ignorant, uncouth, ill-brought-up girl. Yet Edward 



A DARK night's WORK. IT 

was fully aware, if his fond father was not, that of all the 
young ladies who were glad enough of him as a partner at the 
Hamley assemblies, there was not one of them but would have 
considered herself affronted by an offer of marriage from an 
attorney, the son and grandson of attorneys. The young man 
had perhaps received many a slight and mortification pretty 
quietly during these years, which yet told upon his character 
in after life. Even at this very time they were having their 
effect. He was of too sweet a disposition to show resentment, 
as many men would have done. But nevertheless he took a 
secret pleasure in the power which his father's money gave him. 
He would buy an expensive horse after five minutes' conversa- 
tion as to the price, about which a needy heir of one of the 
proud county families had been haggling for three weeks. His 
dogs were from the best kennels in England, no matter at what 
cost ; his guns were the newest and most improved make ; and 
all these were expenses on objects which were among those of 
daily envy to the squires and squires' sons around. They did 
not much care for the treasures of art, which report said were 
being accumulated in Mr. Wilkins's house. But they did covet 
the horses and hounds he possessed, and the young man knew 
that they coveted, and rejoiced in it. 

By-and-by he formed a marriage, which went as near as 
marriages ever do towards pleasing everybody. He was 
desperately in love with Miss Lamotte, so he was dehghted 
when she consented to be his wife. His father was dehghted 
in his dehght, and, besides, was charmed to remember that 
Miss Lamotte's mother had been Sir Frank Holster's younger 
sister, and that, although her marriage had been disowned by 
her family, as beneath her in rank, yet no one could efface her 
name out of the Baronetage, where Lettice, youngest daughter 
of Sir Mark Holster, born 1772, married H. Lamotte, 1799, 
died 1810, was duly chronicled. She had left two children, 
a boy and a girl, of whom their uncle. Sir Frank, took charge, 
as their father was worse than dead — an outlaw whose name 
was never mentioned. Mark Lamotte was in the army ; Lettice 
had a dependent position in her uncle's family ; not intentionally 
made more dependent than was rendered necessary by circum- 
stances, but still dependent enough to grate on the feelings of 
a sensitive girl, whose natural susceptibility to slights was 
redoubled by the constant recollection of her father's disgrace. 



12 A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 

As Mr. Wilkins well knew, Sir Frank was considerably in- 
volved ; but it was with very mixed feelings that he listened 
to the suit which would provide his penniless niece with a 
comfortable, not to say luxurious, home, and with a handsome, 
accomplished young man of unblemished character for a hus- 
band. He said one or two bitter and insolent things to Mr. 
Wilkins, even while he was giving his consent to the match ; 
that was his temper, his proud, evil temper ; but he really and 
permanently was satisfied with the connection, though he would 
occasionally turn round on his nephew-in-law, and sting him 
with a covert insult, as to his want of birth, and the inferior 
position which he held, forgetting, apparently, that his own 
brother-in-law and Lettice's father might be at any moment 
brought to the bar of justice if he attempted to re-enter his 
native country. 

Edward was annoyed at all this ; Lettice resented it. She 
loved her husband dearly, and was proud of him, for she had 
discernment enough to see how superior he was in every way ta 
her cousins, the young Holsters, who borrowed his horses, 
drank his wines, and yet had caught their father's habit of 
sneering at his profession. Lettice wished that Edward would 
content himself with a purely domestic Hfe, would let himself 

drop out of the company of the shire squirearchy, and find 

his relaxation with her, in their luxurious library, or lovely 
drawing-room, so full of white gleaming statues, and gems of 
pictures. But, perhaps, this was too much to expect of any 
man, especially of one who felt himself fitted in many ways to 
shine in society, and who was social by nature. Sociality in 
that county at that time meant conviviality. Edward did not 
care for wine, and yet he was obliged to drink— and by-and-by 
he grew to pique himself on his character as a judge of wine. 
His father by this time was dead ; dead, happy old man, with 
a contented heart — his affairs flourishing, his poorer neighbours 
loving him, his richer respecting him, his son and daughter-in- 
law, the most affectionate and devoted that ever man had, and 
his healthy conscience at peace with his God. 

Lettice could have lived to herself and her husband and 
children. Edward daily required more and more the stimulus 
of society. His wife wondered how he could care to accept 
dinner invitations from people who treated him as "Wilkins 
the attorney, a very good sort of fellow," as they introduced 



A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 1 3 

him to strangers who might be staying in the country, but who 
had no power to appreciate the taste, the talents, the impulsive 
artistic nature which she held so dear. She forgot that by 
accepting such invitations Edward was occasionally brought 
into contact with people not merely of high conventional, but 
of high intellectual rank ; that when a certain amount of wine 
had dissipated his sense of inferiority of rank and position, he 
was a brilliant talker, a man to be listened to and admired even 
by wandering London statesmen, professional diners-out, or 
any great authors who might find themselves visitors in a 

• shire country-house. What she would have had him share 

from the pride of her heart, she should have warned him to 
avoid from the temptations to sinful extravagance which it led 
him into. He had begun to spend more than he ought, not in 
intellectual — though that would have been wrong — but in purely 
sensual things. His wines, his table, should be such as no 
squire's purse or palate could command. His dinner-parties — 
small in number, the viands rare and delicate in quality, and 
sent up to table by an Italian cook — should be such as even 
the London stars should notice with admiration. He would 
have Lettice dressed in the richest materials, the most delicate 
lace ; jewellery, he said, was beyond their means ; glancing 
with proud humility at the diamonds of the elder ladies, and 
the alloyed gold of the younger. But he managed to spend as 
much on his wife's lace as would have bought many a set of 
inferior jewellery. Lettice well became it all. If, as people 
said, her father had been nothing but a French adventurer, she 
bore traces of her nature in her grace, her delicacy, her fascinat- 
ing and elegant ways of doing all things. She was made for 
society ; and yet she hated it. And one day she went out of 
it altogether and for evermore. She had been well in the 
morning when Edward went down to his office in Hamley. At 
noon he was sent for by hurried trembling messengers. When 
he got home breathless and uncomprehending, she was past 
speech. One glance from her lovely loving black eyes showed 
that she recognised him with the passionate yearning that had 
been one of the characteristics of her love through life. There 
was no word passed between them. He could not speak, any 
more than could she. He knelt down by her. She was dying ; 
she was dead ; and he knelt on immovable. They brought him 
his eldest child, EUinor, in utter despair what to do in order to 



14 A DARK night's WORK. 

Touse him. They had no thought as to the effect on her, hitherta 
shut up in the nursery during this busy day of confusion and 
alarm. The child had no idea of death, and her father, kneel- 
ing and tearless, was far less an object of surprise or interest to 
her than her mother, lying still and white, and not turning her 
head to smile at her darling. 

"Mamma! mamma!" cried the child, in shapeless terror. 
But the mother never stirred ; and the father hid his face yet 
deeper in the bedclothes, to stifle a cry as if a sharp knife had 
pierced his heart. The child forced her impetuous way from 
her attendants, and rushed to the bed. Undeterred by deadly 
cold or stony immobility, she kissed the lips and stroked the 
glossy raven hair, murmuring sweet words of wild love, such as 
had passed between the mother and child often and often 
when no witnesses were by ; and altogether seemed so nearly 
beside herself in an agony of love and terror, that Edward arose, 
and softly taking her in his arms, bore her away, lying back 
like one dead (so exhausted was she by the terrible emotion 
they had forced on her childish heart), into his study, a little 
room opening out of the grand library, where on happy evenings, 
never to come again, he and his wife were wont to retire to 
have coffee together, and then perhaps stroll out of the glass 
door into the open air, the shrubbery, the fields — never more to 
be trodden by those dear feet. What passed between father and 
child in this seclusion none could tell. Late in the evening 
EUinor's supper was sent for, and the servant who brought it in 
saw the child lying as one dead in her father's arms, and before 
he left the room, watched his master feeding her, the girl of six 
years of age, with as tender care as if she had been a baby of 
six months. 



CHAPTER III. 

From that time the tie between father and daughter grew very 
strong and tender indeed. Ellinor, it is true, divided her affec- 
tion between her baby sister and her papa ; but he, caring little 
for babies, had only a theoretic regard for his younger child, 
while the elder absorbed all his love. Every day that he dined 
at home Ellinor was placed opposite to him while he ate his late 
dinner ; she sat where her mother had done during the meal. 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 5 

although she had dined and even supped some time before on the 
more primitive nursery fare. It was half pitiful, half amusing, to 
see the little girl's grave, thoughtful ways and modes of speech, 
as if trying to act up to the dignity of her place as her father's 
companion, till sometimes the little head nodded off to slumber 
in the middle of lisping some wise little speech. " Old- 
fashioned," the nurses called her, and prophesied that she would 
not live long in consequence of her old-fashionedness. But 
instead of the fulfilment of this prophecy, the fat bright baby 
was seized with fits, and was well, ill, and dead in a day ! 
EUinor's grief was something alarming, from its quietness and 
concealment. She waited till she was left — as she thought — 
alone at nights, and then sobbed and cried her passionate 
cry for '^ Baby, baby, come back to me — come back ; " till 
every one feared for the health of the frail little girl whose 
childish affections had had to stand two such shocks. Her 
father put aside all business, all pleasure of every kind, to win 
his darling from her grief. No mother could have done more, 
no tenderest nurse done half so much as Mr. Wilkins then did 
for Ellinor. 

If it had not been for him she would have just died of her 
grief. As it was, she overcame it — but slowly, wearily — hardly 
letting herself love any one for some time, as if she instinctively 
feared lest all her strong attachments should find a sudden end 
in death. Her love — thus dammed up into a small space — 
at last burst its banks, and overflowed on her father. It was 
a rich reward to him for all his care of her, and he took delight 
— perhaps a selfish delight — in all the many pretty ways she 
perpetually found of convincing him, if he had needed con- 
viction, that he was ever the first object with her. The nurse 
told him that half-an-hour or so before the earliest time at 
which he could be expected home in the evenings, Miss Ellinor 
began to fold up her doll's things and lull the inanimate treasure 
to sleep. Then she would sit and listen with an intensity of 
attention for his footstep. Once the nurse had expressed some 
wonder at the distance at which Ellinor could hear her father's 
approach, saying that she had listened and could not hear a 
sound, to which Ellinor had replied — 

' ' Of course you cannot ; he is not your papa ! '* 
Then, when he went away in the morning, after he had kissed 
her, Ellinor would run to a certain window from which she could 



1 6 A DARK night's WORK. 

watch him up the lane, now hidden behind a hedge, now re- 
appearing through an open space, again out of sight, till he 
reached a great old beech-tree, where for an instant more she 
saw him. And then she would turn away with a sigh, some- 
times reassuring her unspoken fears by saying softly to herself — 

" He will come again to-night." 

Mr. Wilkins liked to feel his child dependent on him for all 
her pleasures. He was even a little jealous of any one who 
devised a treat or conferred a present, the first news of which 
did not come from or through him. 

At last it was necessary that Ellinor should have some more 
instruction than her good old nurse could give. Her father did 
not care to take upon himself the office of teacher, which he 
thought he foresaw would necessitate occasional blame, an occa- 
sional exercise of authority, which might possibly render him 
less idolised by his little girl ; so he commissioned Lady Holster 
to choose out one among her many protdg^es for a governess to 
his daughter. Now, Lady Holster, who kept a sort of amateur 
county register-office, was only too glad to be made of use in 
this way ; but when she inquired a Httle further as to the sort of 
person required, all she could extract from Mr. Wilkins was — 

"You know the kind of education a lady should have, and 
will, I am sure, choose a governess for Ellinor better than I 
could direct you. Only, please, choose some one who will not 
marry me, and who will let EUinor go on making my tea, and 
doing pretty much what she likes, for she is so good they need 
not try to make her better, only to teach her what a lady should 
know." 

Miss Monro was selected — a plain, intelligent, quiet woman 
of forty — and it was difficult to decide whether she or Mr. 
Wilkins took the most pains to avoid each other, acting with 
regard to Ellinor, pretty much like the famous Adam and Eve 
in the weather-glass : when the one came out the other went in. 
Miss Monro had been tossed about and overworked quite enough 
in her life not to value the privilege and indulgence of her even- 
ings to herself, her comfortable schoolroom, her quiet cosy teas, 
her book, or her letter-writing afterwards. By mutual agree- 
ment she did not interfere with Ellinor and her ways and 
occupations on the evenings when the girl had not her father 
for companion ; and these occasions became more and more 
frequent as years passed on, and the deep shadow was lightened 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 7 

which the sudden death that had visited his household had cast 
over him. As I have said before, he was always a popular man 
at dinner-parties. His amount of intelligence and accomplish- 
ment was rare in shire, and if it required more wine than 

formerly to bring his conversation up to the desired point of 
range and brilliancy, wine was not an article spared or grudged 
at the county dinner-tables. Occasionally his business took 
him up to London. Hurried as these journeys might be, he 
never returned without a new game, a new toy of some kind, 
to "make home pleasant to his little maid," as he expressed 
himself. 

He liked, too, to see what was doing in art, or in literature ; 
and as he gave pretty extensive orders for anything he admired, 
he was almost sure to be followed down to Hamley by one or 
two packages or parcels, the arrival and opening of which 
began soon to form the pleasant epochs in Ellinor's grave 
though happy life. 

The only person of his own standing with whom Mr. Wilkins 
kept up any intercourse in Hamley was the new clergyman, a 
bachelor, about his own age, a learned man, a fellow of his 
college, whose first claim on Mr. Wilkins's attention was the 
fact that he had been travelling-bachelor for his university, and 
had consequently been on the Continent about the very same 
two years that Mr. Wilkins had been there ; and although 
they had never met, yet they had many common acquaintances 
and common recollections to talk over of this period, which, 
after all, had been about the most bright and hopeful of Mr. 
Wilkins's life. 

Mr. Ness had an occasional pupil ; that is to say, he never 
put himself out of the way to obtain pupils, but did not refuse 
the entreaties sometimes made to him that he would prepare a 
young man for college, by allowing the said young man to 
reside and read with him. "Ness's men" took rather high 
honours, for the tutor, too indolent to find out work for himself, 
had a certain pride in doing well the work that was found for 
him. 

When EUinor was somewhere about fourteen, a young Mr, 
Corbet came to be pupil to Mr. Ness. Her father always 
called on the young men reading with the clergyman, and 
asked them to his house. His hospitality had in course of 
time lost its recherchi and elegant character, but was always 



1 8 A DARK night's WORK. 

generous, and often profuse. Besides, it was in his character 
to like the joyous, thoughtless company of the young better 
than that of the old — given the same amount of refinement and 
education in both. 

Mr. Corbet was a young man of very good family, from a 
distant county. If his character had not been so grave and 
deliberate, his years would only have entitled him to be called 
a boy, for he was but eighteen at the time when he came to 
read with Mr. Ness. But many men of five-and-twenty have 
not reflected so deeply as this young Mr. Corbet already had. 
He had considered and almost matured his plan for life; had 
ascertained what objects he desired most to accomplish in the 
dim future, which is to many at his age only a shapeless mist ; 
and had resolved on certain steady courses of action by which 
such objects were most likely to be secured. A younger son, 
his family connections and family interest pre-arranged a legal 
career for him ; and it was in accordance with his own tastes 
and talents. All, however, which his father hoped for him was, 
that he might be able to make an income sufficient for a gentle- 
man to live on. Old Mr. Corbet was hardly to be called 
ambitious, or, if he were, his ambition was hmited to views 
for the eldest son. But Ralph intended to be a distinguished 
lawyer, not so much for the vision of the woolsack, which I 
suppose dances before the imagination of every young lawyer, 
as for the grand intellectual exercise, and consequent power 
over mankind, that distinguished lawyers may always possess 
if they choose. A seat in Parliament, statesmanship, and all 
the great scope for a powerful and active mind that lay on each 
side of such a career — ^these were the objects which Ralph 
Corbet set before himself. To take high honours at college 
was the first step to be accomphshed ; and in order to achieve 
this Ralph had, not persuaded — persuasion was a weak instru- 
ment which he despised — but gravely reasoned his father into 
consenting to pay the large sum which Mr. Ness expected with 
a pupil. The good-natured old squire was rather pressed for 
ready money, but sooner than listen to an argument instead of 
taking his nap after dinner he would have yielded anything. 
But this did not satisfy Ralph ; his father's reason must be 
convinced of the desirability of the step, as well as his weak 
will give way. The squire listened, looked wise, sighed ; spoke 
-of Edward's extravagance and the girls' expenses, grew sleepy. 



A DARK night's WORK. I9. 

and said, "Very true," ^'That is but reasonable, certainly," 
glanced at the door, and wondered when his son would have 
ended his talking and go into the drawing-room ; and at length 
found himself writing the desired letter to Mr. Ness, consenting 
to everything, terms and all. Mr. Ness never had a more 
satisfactory pupil ; one whom he could treat more as an in* 
tellectual equal. 

Mr. Corbet, as Ralph was always called in Hamley, was 
resolute in his cultivation of himself, even exceeding what his 
tutor demanded of him. He was greedy of information in the 
hours not devoted to absolute study, Mr. Ness enjoyed giving 
information, but most of all he liked the hard tough arguments 
on all metaphysical and ethical questions in which Mr. Corbet 
delighted to engage him. They lived together on terms of 
happy equality, having thus much in common. They were 
essentially different, however, although there were so many 
points of resemblance. Mr. Ness was unworldly as far as the 
idea of real unworldliness is compatible with a turn for self- 
indulgence and indolence ; while Mr. Corbet was deeply, 
radically worldly, yet for the accomplishment of his object 
could deny himself all the careless pleasures natural to his age. 
The tutor and pupil allowed themselves one frequent relaxation » 
that of Mr. Wilkins's company. Mr. Ness would stroll to the 
office after the six hours' hard reading were over — leaving Mr. 
Corbet still bent over the table, book bestrewn — and see what 
Mr. Wilkins's engagements were. If he had nothing better to do 
that evening, he was either asked to dine at the parsonage, 
or he, in his careless hospitable way, invited the other two to 
dine with him, Ellinor forming the fourth at table, as far as 
seats went, although her dinner had been eaten early with Miss 
Motiro. She was little and slight of her age, and her father 
never seemed to understand how she was passing out of child- 
hood. Yet while in stature she was like a child ; in intellect, in 
force of character, in strength of clinging affection, she was a 
woman. There might be much of the simplicity of a child 
about her, there was little of the undeveloped girl, varying from 
day to day like an April sky, careless as to which way her own 
character is tending. So the two young people sat with their 
elders, and both relished the company they were thus pre- 
maturely thrown into. Mr. Corbet talked as much as either 
of the other two gentlemen ; opposing and disputing on any 



^O A DARK night's WORK. 

side, as if to find out how much he could urge against received 
opinions. Ellinor sat silent ; her dark eyes flashing from time 
to time in vehement interest— sometimes in vehement indig- 
jiation if Mr. Corbet, riding a-tilt at every one, ventured to 
attack her father. He saw how this course excited her, and 
rather liked pursuing it in consequence ; he thought it only 
amused him. 

Another way in which Ellinor and Mr. Corbet were thrown 
together occasionally was this : Mr. Ness and Mr. Wilkins 
shared the same Times between them ; and it was Ellinor's 
duty to see that the paper was regularly taken from her father's 
house to the parsonage. Her father liked to dawdle over it. 
Until Mr. Corbet had come to live with him, Mr. Ness had not 
jnuch cared at what time it was passed on to him ; but the 
young man took a strong interest in all public events, and 
especially in all that was said about them. He grew impatient 
if the paper was not forthcoming, and would set off himself 
to go for it, sometimes meeting the penitent breathless Ellinor 
in the long lane which led from Hamley to Mr. Wilkins's house. 
At first he used to receive her eager ' ' Oh ! I am so sorry, Mr. 
Corbet, but papa has only just done with it," rather gruffly. 
After a time he had the grace to tell her it did not signify ; and 
by-and-by he would turn back with her to give her some advice 
about her garden, or her plants — for his mother and sisters 
were first-rate practical gardeners, and he himself was, as he 
expressed it, "a capital consulting physician for a sickly plant." 

All this time his voice, his step, never raised the child's colour 
one shade the higher, never made her heart beat the least 
■quicker, as the slightest sign of her father's approach was 
wont to do. She learnt to rely on Mr. Corbet for advice, 
for a little occasional sympathy, and for much condescending 
attention. He also gave her more fault-finding than all the 
rest of the world put together; and, curiously enough, she 
was grateful to him for it, for she really was humble and 
wished to improve. He liked the attitude of superiority which 
this implied and exercised right gave him. They were very 
good friends at present. Nothing more. 

All this time I have spoken only of Mr. Wilkins's life as he 
stood in relation to his daughter. But there is far more to 
l)e said about it. After his wife's death, he withdrew himself 
from society for a year or two in a more positive and decided 



A DARK NIGHrS WORK. 21 

manner than is common with widowers. It was during this 
retirement of his that he riveted his httle daughter's heart in 
such a way as to influence all her future life. 

When he began to go out again, it might have been per- 
ceived — had any one cared to notice — how much the different 
characters of his father and wife had influenced him and kept 
him steady. Not that he broke out into any immoral conduct, 
but he gave up time to pleasure, which both old Mr. Wilkins 
and Lettice would have quietly induced him to spend in the 
office, superintending his business. His indulgence in hunting, 
and all field sports, had hitherto been only occasional ; they 
now became habitual, as far as the seasons permitted. He- 
shared a moor in Scotland with one of the Holsters one year, 
persuading himself that the bracing air was good for Ellinor's 
health. But the year afterwards he took another, this time 
joining with a comparative stranger ; and on this moor there 
was no house to which it was fit to bring a child and her 
attendants. He persuaded himself that by frequent journeys 
he could make up for his absences from Hamley. But journeys 
cost money ; and he was often away from his office when im- 
portant business required attending to. There was some talk 
of a new attorney setting up in Hamley, to be supported by 
one or two of the more influential county faniilies, who had 
found Wilkins not so attentive as his father. Sir Frank Holster 
sent for his relation, and told him of this project, speaking tO' 
him, at the same time, in pretty round terms on the folly of 
the life he was leading. Foolish it certainly was, and as such 
Mr. Wilkins was secretly acknowledging it ; but when Sir 
Frank, lashing himself, began to talk of his hearer's presump- 
tion in joining the hunt, in aping the mode of life and amuse- 
ments of the landed gentry, Edward fired up. He knew how 
much Sir Frank was dipped, and comparing it with the round 
sum his own father had left him, he said some plain truths to 
Sir Frank which the latter never forgave, and henceforth there 
was no intercourse between Holster Court and Ford Bank, as 
Mr. Edward Wilkins had christened his father's house on his 
first return from the Continent. 

The conversation had two consequences besides the immediate 
one of the quarrel. Mr. Wilkins advertised for a responsible 
and confidential clerk to conduct the business under his own 
superintendence ; and he also wrote to the Heralds' College to 



22 A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 

ask if he did not belong to the family bearing the same name- 
in South Wales — those who have since reassumed their ancient 
name of De Winton. 

Both applications were favourably answered. A skilful, ex- 
perienced, middle-aged clerk was recommended to him by one 
of the principal legal firms in London, and immediately en- 
gaged to come to Hamley at his own terms ; which were pretty 
high. But, as Mr. Wilkins said it was worth any money to 
pay for the relief from constant responsibility which such a 
business as his involved, some people remarked that he had 
never appeared to feel the responsibility very much hitherto, 
as witness his absences in Scotland, and his various social 
engagements when at home ; it had been very different (they 
said) in his father's day. The Heralds' College held out hopes 
of affiliating him to the South Wales family, but it would 
require time and money to make the requisite inquiries and 
substantiate the claim. Now, in many a place there would be 
none to contest the right a man might have to assert that he 
belonged to such and such a family^ or even to assume their 

arms. But it was otherwise in shire. Every one was up 

in genealogy and heraldry, and considered filching a name and 
a pedigree a far worse sin than any of those mentioned in the 
Commandments. There were those among them who would 
doubt and dispute even the decision of the Heralds* College ; 
but with it, if in his favour, Mr. Wilkins intended to be 
satisfied, and accordingly he wrote in reply to their letter, to 
say, that of course he was aware such inquiries would take a 
considerable sum of money, but still he wished them to be 
made, and that speedily. 

Before the end of the year he went up to London to order a 
brougham to be built (for EUinor to drive out in in wet weather, 
he said ; but as going in a closed carriage always made her 
ill, he used it principally himself in driving to dinner-parties), 
with the De Winton Wilkinses' arms neatly emblazoned on 
panel and harness. Hitherto he had always gone about in 
a dog-cart — the immediate descendant of his father's old* 
fashioned gig. 

For all this, the squires, his employers, only laughed at him, 
and did not treat him with one whit more respect. 

Mr. Dunster, the new clerk, was a quiet, respectable-looking 
man ; you could not call him a gentleman in manner, and 



A DARK night's WORK. 23 

yet no one could say he, was vulgar. He had not much vary^ 
ing expression on his face, but a permanent one of thought- 
ful consideration of the subject in hand, whatever it might be, 
that would have fitted as well with the profession of medicine 
as with that of law, and was quite the right look for either. 
Occasionally a bright flash of sudden intelligence lightened 
up his deep-sunk eyes, but even this was quickly extinguished 
as by some inward repression, and the habitually reflective, 
subdued expression returned to the face. As soon as he came 
into his situation, he first began quietly to arrange the papers, 
and next the business of which they were the outer sign, 
into more methodical order than they had been in since old 
Mr. Wilkins's death. Punctual to a moment himself, he 
looked his displeased surprise when the inferior clerks came 
tumbling in half-an-hour after the time in the morning ; and 
his look was more effective than many men's words ; hence- 
forward the subordinates were within five minutes of the 
appointed hour for opening the office; but still he was 
always there before them. Mr. Wilkins himself winced under 
his new clerk's order and punctuahty ; Mr. Dunster's raised 
eyebrow and contraction of the lips at some woeful confusion 
in the business of the office, chafed Mr. Wilkins more, far 
more, than any open expression of opinion would have done ; 
for that he could have met, and explained away as he fancied. 
A secret respectful dishke grew up in his bosom against Mr. 
Dunster. He esteemed him, he valued him, and he could 
not bear him. Year after year Mr. Wilkins had become 
more under the influence of his feehngs, and less under the 
command of his reason. He rather cherished than repressed 
his nervous repugnance to the harsh measured tones of Mr. 
Dunster's voice ; the latter spoke with a provincial twang 
which grated on his employer's sensitive ear. He was annoyed 
at a certain green coat which his new clerk brought with him, 
and he watched its increasing shabbiness with a sort of childish 
pleasure. But by-and-by Mr. Wilkins found out that, from 
some perversity of taste, Mr. Dunster always had his coats, 
Sunday and working-day, made of this obnoxious colour ; 
and this knowledge did not diminish his secret irritation. 
The worst of all, perhaps, was, that Mr. Dunster was really 
invaluable in many ways ; "a perfect treasure," as Mr. Wilkins 
used to term him in speaking of him after dinner; but, foe 



24 A DARK NIGHTS WORK. 

all that, he came to hate his " perfect treasure," as he gradually 
felt that Dunster had become so indispensable to the business 
that his chief could not do without him. 

The clients re-echoed Mr. Wilkins's words, and spoke of 
Mr. Dunster as invaluable to his master ; a thorough treasure, 
the very saving of the business. They had not been better 
attended to, not even in old Mr. Wilkins's days ; such a clear 
head, such a knowledge of law, such a steady, upright fellow, 
always at his post. The grating voice, the drawling accent, 
the bottle-green coat, were nothing to them ; far less noticed, 
in fact, than Wilkins's expensive habits, the money he paid 
for his wine and horses, and the nonsense of claiming kin 
with the Welsh Wilkinses, and setting up his brougham to 

drive about • shire lanes, and be knocked to pieces over 

the rough round paving-stones thereof. 

All these remarks did not come near Ellinor to trouble her 
life. To her, her dear father was the first of human beings ; 
so sweet, so good, so kind, so charming in conversation, so 
full of accomphshment and information ! To her healthy, 
happy mind every one turned their bright side. She lofed 
Miss Monro — all the servants — especially Dixon, the coach- 
man. He had been her father's playfellow as a boy, and, 
with all his respect and admiration for his master, the freedom 
of intercourse that had been established between them then 
had never been quite lost. Dixon was a fine, stalwart old 
fellow, and was as harmonious in his ways with his master 
as Mr. Dunster was discordant ; accordingly he was a great 
favourite, and could say many a thing which might have been 
taken as impertinent from another servant. 

He was Ellinor's great confidant about many of her little 
plans and projects ; things that she dared not speak of to Mr. 
Corbet, who, after her father and Dixon, was her next best 
friend. This intimacy with Dixon displeased Mr. Corbet. 
He once or twice insinuated that he did not think it was 
well to talk so familiarly as Ellinor did with a servant — one 
out of a completely different class — such as Dixon. Ellinor 
did not easily take hints ; every one had spoken plain out to 
her hitherto ; so Mr. Corbet had to say his meaning plain out 
at last. Then, for the first time, he saw her angry ; but she 
was too young, too childish, to have words at will to express 
her feelings ; she only could say broken beginnings of sentences. 



A DARK night's WORK. 2$ 

such as "What a shame! Good, dear Dixon, who is as loyal 
and true and kind as any nobleman. I like him far better 
than you, Mr. Corbet, and I shall talk to him." And then she 
burst into tears and ran away, and would not come to wish 
Mr. Corbet good-bye, though she knew she should not see him 
again for a long time, as he was returning the next day to his 
father's house, from whence he would go to Cambridge. 

He was annoyed at this result of the good advice he had 
thought himself bound to give to a motherless girl, who had no 
one to instruct her in the proprieties in which his own sisters 
were brought up ; he left Hamley both sorry and displeased. 
As for EUinor, when she found out the next day that he really 
was gone — gone without even coming to Ford Bank again to 
see if she were not penitent for her angry words — gone without 
saying or hearing a word of good-bye — she shut herself up in 
her room, and cried more bitterly than ever, because anger 
against herself was mixed with her regret for his loss. Luckily, 
her father was dining out, or he would have inquired what was 
the matter with his darling ; and she would have had to try to 
explain what could not be explained. As it was, she sat with 
her back to the light during the schoolroom tea, and after- 
wards, when Miss Monro had settled down to her study of the 
Spanish language, Ellinor stole out into the garden, meaning to 
have a fresh cry over her own naughtiness and Mr. Corbet's 
departure ; but the August evening was still and calm, and 
put her passionate grief to shame, hushing her up, as it were, 
with the other young creatures, who were being soothed to 
rest by the serene time of day, and the subdued light of the 
twilight sky. 

There was a piece of ground surrounding the flower-garden, 
which was not shrubbery, nor wood, nor kitchen-garden — only 
a grassy bit, out of which a group of old forest trees sprang. 
Their roots were heaved above ground ; their leaves fell in 
autumn so profusely that the turf was ragged and bare in 
spring ; but, to make up for this, there never was such a place 
for snowdrops. 

The roots of these old trees were Ellinor's favourite play- 
place ; this space between these two was her doll's kitchen, 
that its drawing-room, and so on. Mr. Corbet rather despised 
her contrivances for doll's furniture, so she had not often 
brought him here ; but Dixon delighted in them, and contrived 



26 A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 

and planned Avith the eagerness of six years old rather than 
forty. To-night EUinor went to this place, and there were 
■all a new collection of ornaments for Miss Dolly's sitting-room 
made out of fir-bobs, in the prettiest and most ingenious way. 
She knew it was Dixon's doing, and rushed -off in search of him 
to thank him. 

** What's the matter with my pretty?" asked Dixon, as soon 
as the pleasant excitement of thanking and being thanked was 
over, and he had leisure to look at her tear-stained face. 

" Oh, I don't know ! Never mind," said she, reddening. 

Dixon was silent for a minute or two, while she tried to turn 
off his attention by her hurried prattle. 

' ' There's no trouble afoot that I can mend ? " asked he, in a 
minute or two. 

"Oh, no! It's really nothing — nothing at all," said she. 
'" It's only that Mr. Corbet went away without saying good- 
bye to me, that's all." And she looked as if she should have 
liked to cry again. 

'*That was not manners," said Dixon decisively. 

" But it was my fault," replied Ellinor, pleading against the 
condemnation. 

Dixon looked at her pretty sharply from under his ragged 
bushy eyebrows. 

*' He had been giving me a lecture, and saying I didn't do 
what to's sisters did— ^just as if I were to be always trying to 
be like somebody else — and I was cross and ran away." 

" Then it was Missy who wouldn't say good-bye. That was 
not manners in Missy." 

" But, Dixon, I don't hke being lectured ! " 

" I reckon you don't get much of it. But, indeed, my pretty, 
I dare say Mr. Corbet was in the right ; for, you see, master is 
busy, and Miss Monro is so dreadful learned, and your poor 
mother is dead and gone, and you have no one to teach you 
how young ladies go on ; and by all accounts Mr. Corbet 
comes of a good family. I've heard say his father had the 
best stud-farm in all Shropshire, and spared no money upon it ; 
and the young ladies his sisters will have been taught the best 
of manners ; it might be well for my pretty to hear how they 
go on." 

"You dear old Dixon, you don't know anything about my 
lecture, and I'm not going to tell you. Only I dare say Mr. 



A DARK night's WORK. 2/ 

Corbet might be a little bit right, though I'm sure he was a 
great deal wrong." 

"But you'll not go on a-fretting — ^^you won't now, there's 
a good young lady — for master won't like it, and it'll make 
him uneasy, and he's enough of trouble without your red eyes, 
bless them." 

" Trouble— papa, trouble ! Oh, Dixon ! what do you mean?" 
exclaimed EUinor, her face taking all a woman's intensity of 
expression in a minute. 

"Nay, I know nought," said Dixon evasively. "Only that 
Dunster fellow is not to my mind, and I think he potters the 
master sadly with his fid-fad ways." 

" I hate Mr. Dunster ! " said Ellinor vehemently. " I won't 
speak a word to him the next time he comes to dine with 
papa." 

" Missy will do what papa Hkes best," said Dixon admonish- 
ingly ; and with this the pair of " friends " parted. 



CHAPTER IV. 

The summer afterwards Mr. Corbet came again to read with 
Mr. Ness. He did not perceive any alteration in himself, and 
indeed his early-matured character had hardly made progress 
during the last twelve months, whatever intellectual acquirements 
he might have made. Therefore it was astonishing to him to 
see the alteration in Ellinor Wilkins. She had shot up from a 
rather puny girl to a tall, slight young lady, with promise of 
great beauty in the face, which a year ago had only been remark- 
able for the fineness of the eyes. Her complexion was clear 
now, although colourless — twelve months ago he would have 
called it sallow — her delicate cheek was smooth as marble, her 
teeth were even and white, and her rare smiles called out a 
lovely dimple. 

She met her former friend and lecturer with a grave shyness, 
for she rem.embered well how they had parted, and thought he 
could hardly have forgiven, much less forgotten, her passionate 
flinging away from him. But the truth was, after the first few 
hours of offended displeasure, he had ceased to think of it at 



28 A DARK night's WORK. 

all. She, poor child, by way of proving her repentance, had 
tried hard to reform her boisterous tom-boy manners, in order 
to show him that, although she would not give up her dear old 
friend Dixon, at his or any one's bidding, she would strive to 
profit by his lectures in all things reasonable. The consequence 
was, that she suddenly appeared to him as an elegant dignified 
young lady, instead of the rough little girl he remembered. 
Still below her somewhat formal manners there lurked the old 
wild spirit, as he could plainly see after a little more watching ; 
and he began to wish to call this out, and to strive, by remind- 
ing her of old days, and all her childish frolics, to flavour 
her subdued manners and speech with a httle of the former 
originality. 

In this he succeeded. No one, neither Mr. Wilkins, nor 
Miss Monro, nor Mr. Ness, saw what this young couple were 
about — they did not know it themselves ; but before the summer 
was over they were desperately in love with each other, or 
perhaps I should rather say, Ellinor was desperately in love 
with him — he, as passionately as he could be with any one ; but 
in him the intellect was superior in strength to either affections 
or passions. 

The causes of the blindness of those around them were these : 
Mr. Wilkins still considered Ellinor as a little girl, as his own 
pet, his darling, but nothing more. Miss Monro was anxious 
about her own improvement. Mr. Ness was deep in a new 
edition of "Horace," which he was going to bring out with 
notes. I believe Dixon would have been keener-sighted, but 
Ellinor kept Mr. Corbet and Dixon apart for obvious reasons — 
they were each her dear friends, but she knew that Mr. Corbet 
did not like Dixon, and suspected that the feeling was mutual. 

The only change of circumstances between this year and the 
previous one consisted in this development of attachment 
between the young people. Otherwise, everything went on 
apparently as usual. With Ellinor the course of the day was 
something like this : up early and into the garden until break- 
fast time, when she made tea for her father and Miss Monro in 
t.he dining-room, always taking care to lay a little nosegay of 
freshly gathered flowers by her father's plate. After breakfast, 
when the conversation had been on general and indifferent 
subjects, Mr. Wilkins withdrew into the little study so often 
mentioned. It opened out of a passage that ran between the 



A DARK night's WORK. 29 

dining-room and the kitchen, on the left hand of the hall. 
Corresponding to the dining-room on the other side of the hall 
was the drawing-room, with its side-window serving as a door 
into a conservatory, and this again opened into the library. 
Old Mr. Wilkins had added a semicircular projection to the 
library, which was lighted by a dome above, and showed off 
his son's Italian purchases of sculpture. The library was by 
far the most striking and agreeable room in the house; and 
the consequence was that the drawing-room was seldom used, 
and had the aspect of cold discomfort common to apartments 
rarely occupied. Mr. Wiikins's study, on the other side of the 
house, was also an afterthought, built only a few years ago, and 
projecting from the regularity of the outside wall ; a little stone 
passage led to it from the hall, small, narrow, and dark, and out 
of which no other door opened. 

The study itself was a hexagon, one side window, one fire- 
place, and the remaining four sides occupied with doors, two of 
which have been already mentioned, another at the foot of the 
narrow winding stairs which led straight into Mr. Wiikins's 
bedroom over the dining-room, and the fourth opening into a 
path through the shrubbery to the right of the flower-garden as 
you looked from the house. This path led through the stable- 
yard, and then by a short cut right into Hamley, and brought 
you out close to Mr. Wiikins's office ; it was by this way he 
always went and returned to his business. He used the study 
for a smoking and lounging room principally, although he 
always spoke of it as a convenient place for holding confidential 
communications with such of his chents as did not like discuss- 
ing their business within the possible hearing of all the clerks 
in his office. By the outer door he could also pass to the 
stables, and see that proper care was taken at all times of his 
favourite and valuable horses. Into this study Ellinor would 
follow him of a morning, helping him on with his greatcoat, 
mending his gloves, talking an infinite deal of merry fond 
nothing ; and then, clinging to his arm, she would accompany 
him in his visits to the stables, going up to the shyest horses, 
and petting them, and patting them, and feeding them with 
bread all the time that her father held converse with Dixon. 
When he was finally gone — and sometimes it was a long time 
first— she returned to the schoolroom to Miss Monro, and tried 
to set herself hard at work on her lessons. But she had not 



30 A DARK night's WORK. 

much time for steady application ; if her father had cared for 
her progress in anything, she would and could have worked 
hard at that study or accomplishment ; but Mr. Wilkins, the 
ease and pleasure loving man, did not wish to make himself 
into the pedagogue, as he would have considered it, if he had 
ever questioned Ellinor with a real steady purpose of ascertain- 
ing her intellectual progress. It was quite enough for him that 
her general intelligence and variety of desultory and miscel- 
laneous reading made her a pleasant and agreeable companion 
for his hours of relaxation. 

At twelve o'clock, Ellinor put away her books with joyful 
eagerness, kissed Miss Monro, asked her if they should go a 
regular walk, and was always rather thankful when it was de- 
cided that it would be better to stroll in the garden — a decision 
very often come to, for Miss Monro hated fatigue, hated dirt, 
hated scrambling, and dreaded rain ; all of which are evils, the 
chances of which are never far distant from country walks. So 
Ellinor danced out into the garden, worked away among her 
flowers, played at the old games among the roots of the trees, 
and, when she could, seduced Dixon into the flower-garden to 
have a little consultation as to the horses and dogs. For it 
was one of her father's few strict rules that Ellinor was never 
to go into the stable-yard unless he were with her ; so these 
tete-a-tetes with Dixon were always held in the flower-garden, 
or bit of forest ground surrounding it. Miss Monro sat and 
basked in the sun, close to the dial, which made the centre of 
the gay flower-beds, upon which the dining-room and study 
windows looked. 

At one o'clock, Ellinor and Miss Monro dined. An hour was 
allowed for Miss Monro's digestion, which Ellinor again spent 
out of doors, and at three, lessons began again and lasted till 
five. At that time they went to dress preparatory for the 
schoolroom tea at half-past five. After tea Ellinor tried to 
prepare her lessons for the next day ; but all the time she was 
listening for her father's footstep — the moment she heard that, 
she dashed down her book, and flew out of the room to wel- 
come and kiss him. Seven was his dinner-hour ; he hardly 
ever dined alone ; indeed, he often dined from home four days 
out of seven, and when he had no engagement to take him out 
he liked to have some one to keep him company : Mr. Ness 
very often, Mr. Corbet along with him if he was in Hamley, 



A DARK night's WORK. 31 

a stranger friend, or one of his clients. Sometimes, reluctantly, 
and when he fancied he could not avoid the attention without 
giving offence, Mr. Wilkins would ask Mr. Dunster, and then 
the two would always follow EUinor into the library at a very 
early hour, as if their subjects for tete-d-iete conversation were 
quite exhausted. With all his other visitors, Mr. Wilkins sat 
long — yes, and 'yearly longer ; with Mr. Ness, because they 
became interested in each other's conversation ; with some of 
the others, because the wine was good, and the host hated 
to spare it. 

Mr. Corbet used to leave his tutor and Mr. Wilkins and 
saunter into the library. There sat Ellinor and Miss Monro, 
each busy with their embroidery. He would bring a stool to 
EUinor's side, question and tease her, interest her, and they 
would become entirely absorbed in each other, Miss Jvlonro's 
sense of propriety being entirely set at rest by the consideration 
that Mr. Wilkins must know what he was about in allowing 
a young man to become thus intimate with his daughter, who, 
after all, was but a child. 

Mr. Corbet had lately fallen into the habit of walking up to 
Ford Bank for the Times every day, near twelve o'clock, and 
lounging about in the garden until one ; not exactly with either 
Ellinor or Miss Monro, but certainly far more at the beck and 
call of the one than of the other. 

Miss Monro used to think he would have been glad to stay 
and lunch at their early dinner, but she never gave the invita- 
tion, and he could not well stay without her expressed sanction. 
He told Ellinor all about his mother and sisters, and their ways 
of going on, and spoke of them and of his father as of people 
she was one day certain to know, and to know intimately ; 
and she did not question or doubt this view of things ; she 
simply acquiesced. 

He had some discussion with himself as to whether he should 
speak to her, and so secure her promise to be his before return- 
ing to Cambridge or not. He did not like the formality of an 
application to Mr, Wilkins, which would, aftet* all, have been 
the proper and straightforward course to pursue with a girl 
of her age — she was barely sixteen. Not that he anticipated 
any difficulty on Mr. Wilkins's part ; his approval of the inti- 
macy which at their respective ages was pretty sure to lead to 
an attachment, was made as evident as could be by actions 



32 A DARK night's WORK. 

without words. But there would have to be reference to his 
own father, who had no notion of the whole affair, and would 
be sure to treat it as a boyish fancy ; as if at twenty-one Ralph 
was not a man, as clear and deliberative in knowing his own 
mind, as resolute as he ever would be in deciding upon the 
course of exertion that should lead him to independence and 
fame, if such were to be attained by clear intellect and a 
strong will. 

No ; to Mr. Wilkins he would not speak for another year 
or two. 

But should he tell Ellinor in direct terms of his love — his 
intention to marry her? 

Again he inchned to the more prudent course of silence. He 
was not afraid of any change in his own incHnations : of them 
he was sure. But he looked upon it in this way : If he made a 
regular declaration to her she would be bound to tell it to her 
father. He should not respect her or like her so much if she 
did not. And yet this course would lead to all the conversa- 
tions, and discussions, and references to his own father, which 
made his own direct appeal to Mr. Wilkins appear a premature 
step to him. 

Whereas he was as sure of Ellinor's love for him as if she 
had uttered all the vows that women ever spoke ; he knew 
even better than she did how fully and entirely that innocent 
girlish heart was his own. He was too proud to dread her 
inconstancy for an instant ; "besides," as he went on to him- 
self, as if to make assurance doubly sure, ' ' whom does she 
see? Those stupid Holsters, who ought to be only too proud of 
having such a girl for their cousin, ignore her existence, and 
spoke slightingly of her father only the very last time I dined 

there. The country people in this precisely Boeotian shire 

clutch at me because my father goes up to the Plantagenets 
for his pedigree — not one whit for myself — and neglect Ellinor ; 
and only condescend to her father because old Wilkins was 
nobody-knows-who's son. So much the worse for them, but so 
much the better for me in this case. I'm above their silly 
antiquated prejudices, and shall be only too glad when the 
fitting time comes to make Ellinor my wife. After all, a 
prosperous attorney's daughter may not be considered an un- 
suitable match for me — younger son as I am. Ellinor will 
make a glorious woman three or four years hence ; just the 



A DARK night's WORK. 33 

style my father admires — such a figure, such limbs. I'll be 
patient, and bide my time, and watch my opportunities, and 
all will come right." 

So he bade EUinor farewell in a most reluctant and affectionate 
manner, although his words might have been spoken out in 
Hamley market-place, and were little different from what he 
said to Miss Monro. Mr. Wilkins half expected a disclosure 
to himself of the love which he suspected in the young man ; 
and when that did not come, he prepared himself for a confidence 
from Ellinor. But she had nothing to tell him, as he very well 
perceived from the child's open unembarrassed manner when 
they were left alone together after dinner. He had refused 
an invitation, and shaken off Mr. Ness, in order to have this 
confidential tete-a-tete with his motherless girl ; and there was 
nothing to make confidence of. He was half inclined to be 
angry ; but then he saw that, although sad, she was so much 
at peace with herself and with the world, that he, always an 
optimist, began to think the young man had done wisely in 
not tearing open the rosebud of her feelings too prematurely. 

The next two years passed over in much the same way— or 
a careless spectator might have thought so. I have heard 
people say, that if you look at a regiment advancing with 
steady step over a plain on a review-day, you can hardly tell 
that they are not merely marking time on one spot of ground, 
unless you compare their position with some other object by 
which to mark their progress, so even is the repetition of the 
movement. And thus the sad events of the future life of this 
father and daughter were hardly perceived in their steady 
advance, and yet over the monotony and flat uniformity of their 
days sorrow came marching down upon them like an armed 
man. Long before Mr. Wilkins had recognised its shape, it 
was approaching him in the distance — as, in fact, it is approach- 
ing all of us at this very time ; you, reader, I, writer, have each 
our great sorrow bearing down upon us. It may be yet beyond 
the dimmest point of our horizon, but in the stillness of the night 
our hearts shrink at the sound of its coming footstep. Well is 
it for those who fall into the hands of the Lord rather than into 
the hands of men ; but worst of all is it for him who has here- 
after to mingle the gall of remorse with the cup held out to him 
by his doom. 

Mr. Wilkins took his ease and his pleasure yet more and 



34 A DARK night's WORK. 

more every year of his life ; nor did the quahty of his ease 
and his pleasure improve ; it seldom does with self-indulgent 
people. He cared less for any books that strained his faculties 
a little — less for engravings and sculptures — perhaps more for 
pictures. He spent extravagantly on his horses ; * ' thought of 
eating and drinking." There was no open vice in all this, so 
that any awful temptation to crime should come down upon 
him, and startle him out of his mode of thinking and living ; 
half the people about him did much the same, as far as their 
lives were patent to his unreflecting observation. But most of 
his associates had their duties to do, and did them with a heart 
and a will, in the hours when he was not in their company. 
Yes ! I call them duties, though some of them might be self- 
imposed and purely social ; they were engagements they had 
entered into, either tacitly or with words, and that they fulfilled. 
From Mr. Hetherington, the Master of the Hounds, who was 
up at — no one knows what hour, to go down to the kennel 
and see that the men did their work well and thoroughly, to 
stern old Sir Lionel Playfair, the upright magistrate, the 
thoughtful, conscientious landlord — they did their work accord- 
ing to their lights ; there were few laggards among those with 
whom Mr. Wilkins associated in the field or at the dinner-table. 
Mr. Ness — though as a clergyman he w^as not so active as he 
might have been— yet even Mr. Ness fagged away with his 
pupils and his new edition of one of the classics. Only Mr. 
Wilkins, dissatisfied with his position, neglected to fulfil the 
duties thereof. He imitated the pleasures, and longed for the 
fancied leisure of those about him ; leisure that he imagined 
would be so much more valuable in the hands of a man like 
himself, full of intellectual tastes and accomplishments, than 
frittered away by dull boors of untravelled, uncultivated squires 
— whose company, however, be it said by the way, he never 
refused. 

And yet daily Mr. Wilkins was sinking from the intellectually 
to the sensually self-indulgent man. He lay late in bed, and 
hated Mr. Dunster for his significant glance at the office-clock 
when he announced to his master that such and such a chent 
had been waiting more than an hour to keep an appointment. 
"Why didn't you see him yourself, Dunster? I'm sure you 
would have done quite as well as me," Mr. Wilkins sometimes 
rephed,. partly with a view of saying something pleasant to the 



A DARK NIGHTS WORK. 35 

man whom he dishked and feared. Mr. Dunster always repHed, 
in a meek matter-of-fact tone, "Oh, sir, they wouldn't like to 
talk over their affairs with a subordinate. '" 

And every time he said this, or some speech of the same kind, 
the idea came more and more clearly into Mr. Wilkins's head, 
of how pleasant it would be to himself to take Dunster into 
partnership, and thus throw all the responsibility of the real 
work and drudgery upon his clerk's shoulders. Importunate 
clients, who would make appointments at unseasonable hours 
and would keep to them, might confide in the partner, though 
they would not in the clerk. The great objections to this 
course were, first and foremost, Mr. Wilkins's strong dislike 
to Mr. Dunster — his repugnance to his company, his dress, 
his voice, his ways — all of which irritated his employer, till 
his state of feeling towards Dunster might be called antipathy ; 
next, Mr. Wilkins was fully aware of the fact that all Mr. 
Dunster's actions and words were carefully and thoughtfully 
pre-arranged to further the great unspoken desire of his life 
— that of being made a partner where he now was only a 
servant. Mr. Wilkins took a malicious pleasure in tantalising 
Mr. Dtinster by such speeches as the one I have just mentioned, 
which always seemed like an opening to the desired end, but 
still for a long time never led any further. Yet all the while 
that end was becoming more and more certain, and at last it 
was reached. 

Mr. Dunster always suspected that the final push was given 
by some circumstance from without ; some reprimand for 
neglect — some threat of withdrawal of business which his 
employer had received ; but of this he could not be certain ; 
all he knew was, that Mr. Wilkins proposed the partnership 
to him in about as ungracious a way as such an offer could 
be made ; an ungraciousness which, after all, had so little effect 
on the real matter in hand, that Mr. Dunster could pass over it 
with a private sneer, while taking all possible advantage of the 
tangible benefit it was now in his power to accept. 

Mr. Corbet's attachment to EUinor had been formally dis- 
closed to her just before this time. He had left college, entered 
at the Middle Temple, and was fagging away at law, and 
feeling success in his own power; Ellinor was to " come out " 
at the next Hamley assemblies ; and her lover began to be 
jealous of the possible admirers her striking appearance and 



36 A DARK night's WORK. 

piquant conversation might attract, and thought it a good time 
to make the success of his suit certain by spoken words and 
promises. 

He needed not have alarmed himself even enough to make 
him take this step, if he had been capable of understanding 
EUinor's heart as fully as he did her appearance and conver- 
sation. She never missed the absence of formal words and 
promises. She considered herself as fully engaged to him, as 
much pledged to marry him and no one else, before he had 
asked the final question, as afterwards. She was rather sur- 
prised at the necessity for those decisive words — 

" EUinor, dearest, will you — can you marry me?" and her 
reply was — given with a deep blush I must record, and in a 
soft murmuring tone — 

"Yes — oh, yes — I never thought of anything else." 

" Then I may speak to your father, may not I, darling?" 

"He knows; I am sure he knows; and he likes you so 
much. Oh, how happy I am ! " 

" But still I must speak to him before I go. When can I see 
him, my EUinor? I must go back to town at four o'clock." 

" I heard his voice in the stable-yard only just before you 
came. Let me go and find out if he is gone to the office 
yet." 

No ! to be sure he was not gone. He was quietly smoking 
a cigar in his study, sitting in an easy-chair near the open 
window, and leisurely glancing at all the advertisements in the 
Times. He hated going to the office more and more since 
Dunster had become a partner ; that fellow gave himself such 
airs of investigation and reprehension. 

He got up, took the cigar out of his mouth, and placed a 
chair for Mr. Corbet, knowing well why he had thus formally 
prefaced his entrance into the room with a — 

"Can I have a few minutes' conversation with you, Mr. 
Wilkins?" 

"Certainly, my dear fellow. Sit down. Will you have a 
cigar?" 

" No ! I never smoke." Mr. Corbet despised all these kinds 
of indulgences, and put a little severity into his refusal, but 
quite unintentionally ; for though he was thankful he was not 
as other men, he was not at all the person to trouble himself 
unnecessarily with their reformation. 



A DARK night's WORK. yj 

" I want to speak to you about Ellinor. She says she thinks 
you must be aware of our mutual attachment." 

" Well," said Mr. Wilkins — he had resumed his cigar, partly 
to conceal his agitation at what he knew was coming — "I 
believe I have had my suspicions. It is not very long since I 
was young myself." And he sighed over the recollection of 
Lettice, and his fresh, hopeful youth. 

"And I hope, sir, as you have been aware of it, and have 
never manifested any disapprobation of it, that you will not 
refuse your consent — a consent I now ask you for — to our 
marriage." 

Mr. Wilkins did not speak for a little while — a touch, a 
thought, a word more would have brought him to tears ; for 
at the last he found it hard to give the consent which would 
part him from his only child. Suddenly he got up, and putting 
his hand into that of the anxious lover (for his silence had 
rendered Mr. Corbet anxious up to a certain point of perplexity 
— he could not understand the implied he would and he would 
not), Mr. Wilkins said — 

"Yes! God bless you both! I will give her to you, some 
day — only it must be a long time first. And now go away — go 
back to her — for I can't stand this much longer." 

Air. Corbet returned to Ellinor. Mr. Wilkins sat down and 
buried his head in his hands, then went to his stable, and had 
Wildfire saddled for a good gallop over the country. Mr. 
Dunster waited for him in vain at the office, where an obstinate 
old country gentleman from a distant part of the shire would 
ignore Dunster's existence as a partner, and pertinaciously 
demanded to see Mr. Wilkins on important business. 



CHAPTER V. 

A FEW days afterwards, Elhnor's father bethought himself that 
some further communication ought to take place between him 
and his daughter's lover regarding the approval of the family of 
the latter to the young man's engagement, and he accordingly 
wrote a very gentlemanly letter, saying that of course he trusted 
that Ralph had informed his father of his engagement ; that 
Mr. Corbet was well known to Mr. Wilkins by reputation, 



38 A DARK night's WORK. 

holding the position which he did in Shropshire, but tiiat as 
Mr. Wilkins did not pretend to be in the same station of life, 
Mr. Corbet might possibly never even have heard of his name, 
although in his own county it was well known as having been 
for generations that of the principal conveyancer and land-agent 

of shire ; that his wife had been a member of the old 

knightly family of Holsters, and that he himself was descended 
from a younger branch of the South Wales De Wintons, or 
Wilkins ; that Ellinor, as his only child, would naturally inherit 
all his property, but that in the meantime, of course, some 
settlement upon her would be made, the nature of which might 
be decided nearer the time of the marriage. 

It was a very good straightforward letter, and well fitted for 
the purpose to which Mr. Wilkins knew it would be applied 
— of being forwarded to the young man's father. One would 
have thought that it was not an engagement so disproportionate 
in point of station as to cause any great opposition on that 
score ; but, unluckily, Captain Corbet, the heir and eldest son, 
had just formed a similar engagement with Lady Maria Brabant, 
the daughter of one of the proudest earls in — — shire, who had 
always resented Mr. Wilkins's appearance on the field as an 
insult to the county, and ignored his presence at every dinner- 
table where they met. Lady Maria was visiting the Corbets 
at the very time when Ralph's letter, enclosing Mr. Wilkins's, 
reached the paternal halls, and she merely repeated her father's 
opinions when Mrs. Corbet and her daughters naturally ques- 
tioned her as to who these Wilkinses were ; they remembered 
the name in Ralph's letters formerly ; the father was some 
friend of Mr. Ness's, the clergym.an with whom Ralph had 
read ; they believed Ralph used to dine with these Wilkinses 
sometimes, along with Mr. Ness. 

Lady Maria was a good-natured girl, and meant no harm in 
repeating her father's words ; touched up, it is true, by some of 
the dislike she herself felt to the intimate alliance proposed, 
which would make her sister-in-law to the daughter of an "up- 
start attorney," "not received in the county," "always trying 
to push his way into the set above him," "claiming connection 

with the De Wintons of Castle, who, as she well knew, only 

laughed when he was spoken of, and said they were more rich in 
relations than they were aware of" — "not people papa would 
ever like her to know, whatever might be the family connection." 



A DARK night's WORK. 39 

These little speeches told in a way which the girl who uttered 
them did not intend they should. Mrs. Corbet and her daughters 
set themselves violently against this foolish entanglement of 
Ralph's ; they would not call it an engagement. They argued 
and they urged, and they pleaded, till the squire, anxious for 
peace at any price, and always more under the sway of the 
people who were with him, however unreasonable they might 
be, than of the absent, even though these had the wisdom 
of Solomon or the prudence and sagacity of his son Ralph, 
wrote an angry letter, saying that, as Ralph was of age, of 
course he had a right to please himself, therefore all his father 
could say was, that the engagement was not at all what either 
he or Ralph's mother had expected or hoped ; that it was a 
degradation to the family just going to ally themselves with a 
peer of James the First's creation ; that of course Ralph must 
do what he liked, but that if he married this girl he must never 
expect to have her received by the Corbets of Corbet Hall 
as a daughter. The squire was rather satisfied with his 
production, and took it to show it to his wife ; but she did 
not think it was strong enough, and added a httle post- 
script — 

"Dear Ralph, — Though, as second son, you are entitled 
to Bromley at my death, yet I can do much to make the 
estate worthless. Hitherto, regard for you has prevented my 
taking steps as to sale of timber, &c., which would materially 
increase your sisters' portions ; this just measure I shall in- 
fallibly take if I find you persevere in keeping to this silly 
engagement. Your father's disapproval is always a sufficient 
reason to allege." 

Ralph was annoyed at the receipt of these letters, though he 
only smiled as he locked them up in his desk. 

"Dear old father; how he blusters! As to my mother, 
she is reasonable when I talk to her. Once give her a 
definite idea of what Ellinor's fortune will be, and let her, 
if she chooses, cut down her timber — a threat she has held 
over me ever since I knew what a rocking-horse was, and 
which I have known to be illegal these ten years past — 
and she'll come round. I know better than they do how 
Reginald has run up post-obits, and as for that vulgar 



40 A DARK night's WORK. 

high-born Lady Maria they are all so full of, why, she is a 
Flanders mare to my Ellinor, and has not a silver penny to cross 
herself with, besides ! I bide my time, you dear good people ! " 

He did not think it necessary to reply to these letters imme- 
diately, nor did he even allude to their contents in his to 
Ellinor. Mr. Wilkins, who had been very well satisfied with 
his own letter to the young man, and had thought that it must 
be equally agreeable to every one, was not at all suspicious of 
any disapproval, because the fact of a distinct sanction on the 
part of Mr. Ralph Corbet's friends to his engagement was not 
communicated to him. 

As for Ellinor, she trembled all over with happiness. Such 
a summer for the blossoming of flowers and ripening of fruit 
had not been known for years ; it seemed to her as if bounti- 
ful loving Nature wanted to fill the cup of EUinor's joy to 
overflowing, and as if everything, animate and inanimate, sym- 
pathised with her happiness. Her father was well, and 
apparently content. Miss Monro was very kind. Dixon's 
lameness was quite gone off. Only Mr. Dunster came creep- 
ing about the house, on pretence of business, seeking out her 
father, and disturbing all his leisure with his dust-coloured 
parchment-skinned careworn face, and seeming to disturb the 
smooth current of her daily life whenever she saw him. 

Ellinor made her appearance at the Hamley assemblies, but 
with less dclat that either her father or her lover expected. 
Her beauty and natural grace were admired by those who 
could discriminate ; but to the greater number there was (what 
they called) "a want of style " — want of elegance there certainly 
was not, for her figure was perfect, and though she moved 
shyly, she moved well. Perhaps it was not a good place for 
a correct appreciation of Miss Wilkins ; some of the old 
dowagers thought it a piece of presumption in her to be 
there at all — but the Lady Holster of the day (who remembered 
her husband's quarrel with Mr. Wilkins, and looked away 
whenever Ellinor came near) resented this opinion. "Miss 
Wilkins is descended from Sir Frank's family, one of the oldest 
in the county ; the objection might have been made years ago 
to the father, but as he had been received, she did not know 
why Miss Wilkins was to be alluded to as out of her place." 
EUinor's greatest enjoyment in the evening was to hear her 
father say, after all was over, and they were driving home — 



A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 4 1 

"Well, I thought my Nelly the prettiest girl there, and I 
think I know some other people who would have said the same 
if they could have spoken out," 

" Thank you, papa," said EUinor, squeezing his hand, which 
she held. She thought he alluded to the absent Ralph as the 
person who would have agreed with him, had he had the 
opportunity of seeing her ; but no, he seldom thought much 
of the absent ; but had been rather flattered by seeing Lord 
Hildebrand take up his glass for the apparent purpose of 
watching Ellinor. 

"Your pearls, too, were as handsome as any in the room, 
child — but we must have them re-set ; the sprays are old- 
fashioned now. Let me have them to-morrow to send up 
to Hancock." 

' ' Papa, please, I had rather keep them as they are — as 
mamma wore them." 

He was touched in a minute. 

" Very well, darling. God bless you for thinking of it ! " 

But he ordered her a set of sapphires instead, for the next 
assembly. 

These balls were not such as to intoxicate Ellinor with 
success, and make her in love with gaiety. Large parties 
came from the different country-houses in the neighbourhood, 
and danced with each other. When they had exhausted the 
resources they brought with them, they had generally a few 
dances to spare for friends of the same standing with whom 
they were most intimate. Ellinor came with her father, and 
joined an old card-playing dowager, by way of a chaperone — 
the said dowager being under old business obligations to the 
firm of Wilkins & Son, and apologising to all her acquaint- 
ances for her own weak condescension to Mr. W^ilkins's foible 
in wishing to introduce his daughter into society above her 
natural sphere. It was upon this lady, after she had uttered 
some such speech as the one I have just mentioned, that Lady 
Holster had come down with the pedigree of Ellinor's mother. 
But though the old dowager had drawn back a little discomfited 
at my lady's reply, she was not more attentive to Ellinor in 
consequence. She allowed Mr. Wilkins to bring in his daughter 
and place her on the crimson sofa beside her ; spoke to her 
occasionally in the interval that elapsed before the rubbers could 
be properly arranged in the card-room ; invited the girl to 



42 A DARK night's WORK. 

accompany her to that sober amusement, and on EUinor's 
dechning, and preferring to remain with her father, the dowager 
left her with a sweet smile ,on her plump counteni^nce, and 
an approving conscience somewhere within her portly frame, 
assuring her that she had done all that could possibly have been 
•expected from her towards "that good Wilkins's daughter." 
Ellinor stood by her father watching the dances, and thankful 
for the occasional chance of a dance. While she had been 
sitting by her chaperone, Mr. Wilkins had made the tour of 
the room, dropping out the little fact of his daughter's being 
present wherever he thought the seed likely to bring forth the 
fruit of partners. And some came because they liked Mr. 
Wilkins, and some asked Ellinor because they had done their 
■duty dances to their own party, and might please themselves. 
So that she usually had an average of one invitation to every 
three dances ; and this principally towards the end of the 
evening. 

But considering her real beauty, and the care which her father 
always took about her appearance, she met with far less than 
her due of admiration. Admiration she did not care for ; 
partners she did ; and sometimes felt mortified when she had 
to sit or stand quiet during all the first part of the evening. If 
it had not been for her father's wishes she would much rather 
have stayed at home ; but, nevertheless, she talked even to the 
irresponsive old dowager, and fairly chatted to her father when 
she got beside him, because she did not like him to fancy that 
she was not enjoying herself. 

And, indeed, she had so much happiness in the daily course 
of this part of her life, that, on looking back upon it afterwards, 
she could not imagine anything brighter than it had been. 
The delight of receiving her lover's letters — the anxious happi- 
ness of replying to them (always a little bit fearful lest she 
should not express herself and her love in the precisely happy 
medium becoming a maiden) — the father's love and satisfac- 
tion in her — the calm prosperity of the whole household — 
was delightful at the time, and, looking back upon it, it was 
dreamlike. 

Occasionally Mr. Corbet came down to see her. He always 
slept on these occasions at Mr. Ness's ; but he was at Ford Bank 
the greater part of the one day between two nights that he 
allowed himself for the length of his visits. And even these 



A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 43 

short peeps were not frequently taken. He was working hard at 
law : fagging at it tooth and nail ; arranging his whole life so 
as best to promote the ends of his ambition ; feeling a delight 
in surpassing and mastering his fellows — those wh3 started in 
the race at the same time. He read Ellinor's letters over and 
over again ; nothing else besides law-books. He perceived 
the repressed love hidden away in subdued expressions in her 
communications, with an amused pleasure at the attempt at con- 
cealment. He was glad that her gaieties were not more gay ; 
he was glad that she was not too much admired, although a little 

indignant at the want of taste on the part of the shire 

gentlemen. But if other admirers had come prominently for- 
ward, he would have had to take some more decided steps to 
assert his rights than he had hitherto done ; for he had caused 
Ellinor to express a wish to her father that her engagement 
should not be too much talked about until nearer the time 
when it would be prudent for him to marry her. He thought 
that the knowledge of this, the only imprudently hasty step he 
ever meant to take in his life, might go against his character for 
wisdom, if the fact became known while he was as yet only a 
student. Mr. Wilkins wondered a httle ; but acceded, as he 
always did, to any of EUinor's requests. Mr. Ness was a confi- 
dant, of course, and some of Lady Maria's connections heard 
of it, and forgot it again very soon ; and, as it happened, no 
one else was sufficiently interested in Ellinor to care to ascertain 
the fact. 

All this time, Mr. Ralph Corbet maintained a very quietly de- 
cided attitude towards his own family. He was engaged to Miss 
Wilkins ; and all he could say was, he felt sorry that they dis- 
approved of it. He was not able to marry just at present, and 
before the time for his marriage arrived he trusted that his 
family would take a more reasonable view of things, and be 
wilhng to receive her as his wife with all becoming respect or 
affection. This was the substance of what he repeated in 
different forms, in reply to his father's angry letters. At length, 
his invariable determination made way with his father ; the 
paternal thunderings were subdued to a distant rumbhng in the 
sky ; and presently the inquiry was broached as to how much 
fbrtune Miss Wilkins would have ; how much down on her 
marriage ; what were the eventual probabilities. Now this was 
a point which Mr. Ralph Corbet himself wished to be informed 



44 A DARK night's WORK. 

upon. He had not thought much about it in making the 
engagement ; he had been too young, or too much in love. 
But an only child of a wealthy attorney ought to have something 
considerable ; and an allowance so as to enable the young 
couple to start housekeeping in a moderately good part of town, 
would be an advantage to him in his profession. So he replied 
to his father, adroitly suggesting that a letter containing certain 
modifications of the inquiry which had been rather roughly put 
in Mr. Corbet's last, should be sent to him, in order that he 
might himself ascertain from Mr. Wilkins what were Ellinor's 
prospects as regarded fortune. 

The desired letter came ; but not in such a form that he could 
pass it on to Mr. Wilkins ; he preferred to make quotations, and 
even these quotations were a little altered and dressed before he 
sent them on. The gist of his letter to Mr. Wilkins was this. 
He stated that he hoped soon to be in a position to offer EUinor 
a home ; that he anticipated a steady progress in his profession, 
and consequently in his income ; but that contingencies might 
arise, as his father suggested, which would deprive him of the 
power of earning a livelihood, perhaps when it might be more 
required than it would be at first ; that it was true that, after his 
mother's death, a small estate in Shropshire would come to him 
as second son, and of course Elhnor would receive the benefit 
of this property, secured to her legally as Mr. Wilkins thought 
best— that being a matter for after discussion— but that at pre- 
sent his father was anxious, as might be seen from the extract, 
to ascertain whether Mr. Wilkins could secure him from the con- 
tingency of having his son's widow and possible children thrown 
upon his hands, by giving Ellinor a dowry ; and if so, it was 
gently insinuated, what would be the amount of the same. 

When Mr. Wilkins received this letter it startled him out of a 
happy day-dream. He liked Ralph Corbet and the whole con- 
nection quite well enough to give his consent to an engagement ; 
and sometimes even he was glad to think that Ellinor's future- 
was assured, and that she would have a protector and friends 
after he was dead and gone. But he did not want them to 
assume their responsibilities so soon. He had not distinctly 
contemplated her marriage as an event likely to happen before 
his death. He could not understand how his own life would gb 
on without her : or indeed why she and Ralph Corbet could not 
continue just as they were at present. He came down to break- 



A DARK night's WORK. 45 

fast with the letter in his hand. By EUinor's blushes, as she 
glanced at the handwriting, he knew that she had heard from 
her lover by the same post ; by her tender caresses — caresses 
given as if to make up for the pain which the prospect of her 
leaving him was sure to cause him — he was certain that she was 
.aware of the contents of the letter. Yet he put it in his pocket, 
and tried to forget it. 

He did this not merely from his reluctance to complete any 
arrangements which might facilitate EUinor's marriage. There 
was a further annoyance connected with the affair. His money 
matters had been for some time in an involved state ; he had 
been living beyond his income, even reckoning that, as he always 
•did, at the highest point which it ever touched. He kept no 
regular accounts, reasoning with himself — or, perhaps, I should 
rather say persuading himself — that there was no great occasion 
for regular accounts, when he had a steady income arising from 
his profession, as well as the interest of a good sum of money 
left him by his father ; and when, living in his own house near a 
•country town where provisions were cheap, his expenditure for 
his small family — only one child — could never amount to any- 
thing like his incomings from the above-mentioned sources. 
But servants and horses, and choice wines and rare fruit-trees, 
and a habit of purchasing any book or engraving that may take 
the fancy, irrespective of the price, run away with money, even 
though there be but one child. A year or two ago, Mr. Wilkins 
had been startled into a system of exaggerated retrenchment — 
retrenchment which only lasted about six weeks — by the sudden 
bursting of a bubble speculation in which he had invested a part 
of his father's savings. But as soon as the change in his habits, 
necessitated by his new economies, became irksome, he had com- 
forted himself for his relapse into his former easy extravagance 
of living by rem.embering the fact that Ellinor was engaged to 
the son of a man of large property: and that though Ralph was 
only the second son, yet his mother's estate must come to him, 
as Mr. Ness had already mentioned, on first hearing of her 
engagement. 

Mr. Wilkins did not doubt that he could easily make Ellinor 
a fitting allowance, or even pay down a requisite dowry ; but 
the doing so would involve an examination into the real state of 
his affairs, and this involved distasteful trouble. He had no 
idea how much more than mere temporary annoyance would 



46 A DARK NIGHTS WORK. 

arise out of the investigation. Until it was made, he decided 
in his own mind that he would not speak to Ellinor on the 
subject of her lover's letter. So for the next few days she was 
kept in suspense, seeing little of her father ; and during the 
short times she was with him she was made aware' that he was 
nervously anxious to keep the conversation engaged on general 
topics rather than on the one which she had at heart. As I 
have already said, Mr. Corbet had written to her by the same 
post as that on which he sent the letter to her father, telling her 
of its contents, and begging her (in all those sweet words which 
lovers know how to use) to urge her father to compliance for his 
sake — his, her lover's — who was pining and lonely in all the 
crowds of London, since her loved presence was not there. He 
did not care for money, save as a means of hastening their 
marriage ; indeed, if there were only some income fixed, however 
small — some time for their marriage fixed, however distant — he 
could be patient. He did not want superfluity of wealth ; his 
habits were simple, a:s she well knew ; and money enough would 
be theirs in time, both from her share of contingencies, and the 
certainty of his finally possessing Bromley. 

Ellinor delayed replying to this letter until her father should 
have spoken to her on the subject. But as she perceived that 
he avoided all such conversation, the young girl's heart failed 
her. She began to blame herself for wishing to leave him, to 
reproach herself for being accessory to any step which made him 
shun being alone with her, and look distressed and full of care 
as he did now. It was the usual struggle between father and 
lover for the possession of love, instead of the natural and grace- 
ful resignation of the parent to the prescribed course of things ; 
and, as usual, it was the poor girl who bore the suffering for no 
fault of her own : although she blamed herself for being the cause 
of the disturbance in the previous order of affairs. Ellinor had no 
one to speak to confidentially but her father and her lover, and 
when they were at issue she could talk openly to neither, so she 
brooded over Mr. Corbet's imanswered letter, and her father's 
silence, and became pale and dispirited. Once or twice she 
looked up suddenly, and caught her father's eye gazing upon her 
with a certain wistful anxiety ; but the instant she saw this he 
pulled himself up, as it were, and would begin talking gaily 
about the small topics of the day. 

At length Mr. Corbet grew impatient at not hearing either 



A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 47 

from Mr. Wilkins or Ellinor, and wrote urgently to the former, 
making known to him a new proposal suggested to him by his. 
father, which was, that a certain sum should be paid down by 
Mr. Wilkins, to be applied, under the management of trustees, 
to the improvement of the Bromley estate, out of the profits of 
which, or other sources in the elder Mr. Corbet's hands, a heavy 
rate of interest should be paid on this advance, which would 
secure an income to the young couple immediately, and con- 
siderably increase the value of the estate upon which Ellinor's 
settlement was to be made. The terms offered for this laying 
down of ready money were so advantageous, that Mr. Wilkins 
was strongly tempted to accede to them at once ; as Ellinor's 
pale cheek and want of appetite had only that very morning 
smote upon his conscience, and this immediate transfer of ready 
money was as a sacrifice, a soothing balm to his self-reproach, 
and laziness and dislike to immediate unpleasantness of action 
had its counterbalancing weakness in imprudence. Mr. Wilkins- 
made some rough calculations on a piece of paper — deeds, and 
all such tests of accuracy, being down at the office ; discovered 
that he could pay down the sum required ; wrote a letter agree- 
ing to the proposal, and before he sealed it called Ellinor inta 
his study, and bade her read what he had been writing and tell 
him what she thought of it. Ke watched the colour come rush- 
ing into her white face, her Hps quiver and tremble, and even 
before the letter was ended she was in his arms kissing him, and 
thanking him with blushing caresses rather than words. 

"There, there!" said he, smiling and sighing; "that will 
do. Why, I do believe you took me for a hard-hearted father, 
just like a heroine's father in a book. You've looked as woe- 
begone this week past as Ophelia. One can't make up one's, 
mind in a day about such sums of money as this, little woman ; 
and you should have let your old father have time to consider." 

" Oh, papa ; I was only afraid you were angry." 

"Well, if I was a bit perplexed, seeing you look so ill and 
pining was not the way to bring me round. Old Corbet, I 
must say, is trying to make a good bargain for his son. It is- 
well for me that I have never been an extravagant man." 

"But, papa, we don't want all this much." 

"Yes, yes ! it is all right. You shall go into their family as. 
a well-portioned girl, if you can't go as a Lady Maria. Come, 
don't trouble your little head any more about it. Give me one 



48 A DARK night's WORK. 

more kiss, and then we'll go and order the horses, and have a 
ride together, by way of keeping holiday. I deserve a holiday, 
don't I, Nelly?" 

Some country people at work at the roadside, as the father 
and daughter passed along, stopped to admire their bright 
happy looks, and one spoke of the hereditary handsomeness 
of the Wilkins family (for the old man, the present Mr. 
Wilkins's father, had been fine-looking in his drab breeches 
and gaiters, and usual assumption of a yeoman's dress). 
Another said it was easy for the rich to be handsome ; they 
had always plenty to eat, and could ride when they were tired 
of walking, and had no care for the morrow to keep them from 
sleeping at nights. And, in sad acquiescence with their con- 
trasted lot, the men went on with their hedging and ditching 
in silence. 

And yet, if they had known — if the poor did know — the 
troubles and temptations of the rich ; if those men had foreseen 
the lot darkening over the father, and including the daughter in 
its cloud ; if Mr. Wilkins himself had even imagined such a 
future possible. . . . Well, there was truth in the old heathen 
saying, " Let no man be envied till his death." 

EUinor had no more rides with her father ; no, not ever 
again ; though they had stopped that afternoon at the summit 
of a breezy common, and looked at a ruined hall, not so very 
far off, and discussed whether they could reach it that day, and 
decided that it was too far away for anything but a hurried in- 
spection, and that some day soon they would make the old 
place into the principal object of an excursion. But a rainy 
time came on, when no rides were possible ; and whether it 
was the influence of the weather, or some other care or trouble 
that oppressed him, Mr. Wilkins seemed to lose all wish for 
much active exercise, and rather sought a stimulus to his spirits 
and circulation in wine. But of this EUinor was innocently 
unaware. He seemed dull and weary, and sat long, drowsing 
and drinking after dinner. If the servants had not been so 
fond of him for much previous generosity and kindness, they 
would have complained now, and with reason, of his irrita- 
bility, for all sorts of things seemed to annoy him. 

" You should get the master to take a ride with you, miss," 
said Dixon one day, as he was putting EUinor on her horse. 
*' He's not looking well. He's studying too much at the office." 



A DARK night's WORK. 49 

But when Ellinor named it to her father, he rather hastily 
repUed that it was all very well for women to ride out when- 
ever they hked— men had something else to do; and then, as 
he saw her look grave and puzzled, he softened down his 
abrupt saying by adding that Dunster had been making a fuss 
about his partner's non-attendance, and altogether taking a 
good deal upon himself in a very offensive way, so that he 
thought it better to go pretty regularly to the office, in order 
to show him who was master — senior partner, and head of 
the business, at any rate. 

Ellinor sighed a little over her disappointment at her father's 
preoccupation, and then forgot her own little regret in anger at 
Mr. Dunster, who had seemed all along to be a thorn in her 
father's side, and had latterly gained some power and authority 
over him, the exercise of which, Ellinor could not help thinking, 
was a very impertinent line of conduct from a junior partner, so 
lately only a paid clerk, to his superior. There was a sense of 
something wrong in the Ford Bank household for many weeks 
about this time. Mr. Wilkins was not like himself, and his 
cheerful ways and careless genial speeches wefe missed, even on 
the days when he was not irritable, and evidently uneasy with 
himself and all about him. The spring w-as late in coming, and 
cold rain and sleet made any kind of outdoor exercise a trouble 
and discomfort rather than a bright natural event in the course 
of the day. All sound of winter gaieties, of assemblies and meets, 
and jovial dinners, had died away, and the summer pleasures 
were as yet unthought of. Still Ellinor had a secret perennial 
source of sunshine in her heart ; whenever she thought of Ralph 
she could not feel much oppression from the present unspoken 
and indistinct gloom. He loved her ; and oh, how she loved 

him ! and perhaps this very next autumn but that depended 

on his own success in his profession. After all, if it was not this 
autumn it would be the next ; and with the letters that she re- 
ceived weekly, and the occasional visits that her lover ran down 
to Hamley to pay Mr. Ness, Ellinor felt as if she would almost 
prefer the delay of the time when she must leave her father's for 
a husband's roof. 



50 A DARK night's WORK. 



CHAPTER VI. 

At Easter — ^just when the heavens and earth were looking 
their dreariest, for Easter fell very early this year — Mr. Corbet 
came down. Mr. Wilkins was too busy to see much of him ; 
they were together even less than usual, although not less 
friendly when they did meet. But to Ellinor the visit was one 
of unmixed happiness. Hitherto she had always had a httle 
fear mingled up with her love of Mr. Corbet ; but his manners 
were softened, his opinions less decided and abrupt, and his 
whole treatment of her showed such tenderness, that the young 
girl basked and revelled in it. One or two of their conversa- 
tions had reference to their future married life in London ; 
and she then perceived, although it did not jar against her, 
that her lover had not forgotten his ambition in his love. He 
tried to inoculate her with something of his own craving for 
success in life ; but it was all in vain : she nestled to him, and 
told him she did not care to be the Lord Chancellor's wife- 
wigs and woolsacks were not in her line ; only if he wished it, 
she would wish it. 

The last two days of his stay the weather changed. Sudden 
heat burst forth, as it does occasionally for a few hours even 
in our chilly English spring. The grey-brown bushes and trees 
started almost with visible progress into the tender green shade 
which is the forerunner of the bursting leaves. The sky was of 
full cloudless blue. Mr. Wilkins was to come home pretty early 
from the office to ride out with his daughter and her lover ; but, 
after waiting some time for him, it grew too late, and they were 
obliged to give up the project. Nothing would serve ElHnor, 
then, but that she must carry out a table and have tea in the 
garden, on the sunny side of the tree, among the roots of which 
she used to play when a child. Miss Monro objected a little to 
this caprice of Ellinor's, saying that it was too early for out-of- 
door meals ; but Mr. Corbet overruled all objections, and helped 
her in her gay preparations. She always kept to the early hours 
of her childhood, although she, as then, regularly sat with her 
father at his late dinner ; and this meal al fresco was to be a 
reality to her and Miss Monro. There was a place arranged 
for her father, and she seized upon him as he was coming from 



A DARK night's WORK. 51 

the stable-yard, by the shrubbery path, to his study, and with 
merry playfulness made him a prisoner, accusing him of dis- 
appointing them of their ride, and drawing him, more than half 
unwilling, to his chair by the table. But he was silent, and 
almost sad : his presence damped them all ; they could hardly 
tell why, for he did not object to anything, though he seemed 
to enjoy nothing, and only to force a smile at Ellinor's occa- 
sional sallies. These became more and more rare as she per- 
ceived her father's depression. She watched him anxiously. 
He perceived it, and said — shivering in that strange unaccount- 
able manner which is popularly explained by the expression that 
some one is passing over the earth that will one day form your 
grave — 

"Ellinor ! this is not a day for out-of-door tea. I never felt 
so chilly a spot in my life. I cannot keep from shaking where 
I sit. I must leave this place, my dear, in spite of all your 
good tea." 

"Oh, papa ! I am so sorry. But look how full that hot sun's- 
rays come on this turf. I thought I had chosen such a capital 
spot ! " 

But he got up and persisted in leaving the table,, although he 
was evidently sorry to spoil the little party. He walked up and 
down the gravel walk, close by them, talking to them as he kept 
passing by and trying to cheer them up. 

"Are you warmer now, papa?" asked Ellinor. 

"Oh, yes ! all right. It's only that place that seems so chilly 
and damp. I'm as warm as a toast now." 

The next morning Mr. Corbet left them. The unseasonably 
fine weather passed away too, and all things went back to their 
rather grey and dreary aspect ; but Ellinor was too happy to feel 
this much, knowing what absent love existed for her alone, and. 
from this knowledge unconsciously trusting in the sun behind, 
the clouds. 

I have said that few or none in the immediate neighbourhood 
of Hamley, beside their own household and Mr. Ness, knew of 
Ellinor's engagement. At one of the rare dinner-parties to which 
she accompanied her father — it was at the old lady's house whO' 
chaperoned her to the assemblies — she was taken in to dinner by 
a young clergyman staying in the neighbourhood. He had just 
had a small living given to him in his own county, and he felt as 
if this was a great step in his life. He was good, innocent, and 



52 A DARK night's WORK. 

rather boyish in appearance. Ellinor was happy and at her ease, 
and chatted away to this Mr. Livingstone on many Httle points 
■of interest which they found they had in common : church music, 
and the difficulty they had in getting people to sing in parts ; 
Salisbury Cathedral, which they had both seen ; styles of church 
architecture, Ruskin's works, and parish schools, in which Mr. 
Livingstone was somewhat shocked to find that Ellinor took no 
great interest. When the gentlemen came in from the dining- 
room, it struck Ellinor, for the first time in her life, that her 
father had taken more wine than was good for him. Indeed, this 
had rather become a habit with him of late ; but as he always 
tried to go quietly off to his own room when such had been the 
case, his daughter had never been aware of it before, and the 
perception of it now made her cheeks hot with shame. She 
thought that every one must be as conscious of his altered manner 
and way of speaking as she was, and after a pause of sick silence, 
during which she could not say a word, she set to and talked to 
Mr. Livingstone about parish schools, anything, with redoubled 
vigour and apparent interest, in order to keep one or two of the 
company, at least, from noticing what was to her so painfully 
obvious. 

The effect of her behaviour was far more than she had intended. 
She kept Mr. Livingstone, it is true, from observing her father, 
but she also riveted his attention on herself. He had thought 
her very pretty and agreeable during dinner : but after dinner he 
considered her bewitching, irresistible. He dreamed of her all 
night, and wakened up the next morning to a calculation of how 
far his income would allow him to furnish his pretty new par- 
sonage with that crowning blessing, a wife. For a day or two he 
did up little sums, and sighed, and thought of Ellinor, her face 
listening with admiring interest to his sermons, her arm passed 
into his as they went together round the parish ; her sweet voice 
instructing classes in his schools — turn where he would, in his 
imagination Ellinor's presence rose up before him. 

The consequence was that he wrote an offer, which he found 
a far more perplexing piece of composition than a sermon ; a 
real hearty expression of love, going on, over all obstacles, to a 
straightforward explanation of his present prospects and future 
hopes, and winding up with the information that on the succeed- 
ing morning he would call to know whether he might speak to 
Mr. Wilkins on the subject of this letter. It was given to Ellinor 



A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 53 

in the evening, as she was sitting with Miss Monro in the hbrary. 
Mr. Wilkins was dining out, she hardly knew where, as it was a 
sudden engagement, of which he had sent word from the office 
—a gentleman's dinner-party, she supposed, as he had dressed 
in Hamley without coming home. Ellinor turned over the letter 
when it was brought to her, as some people do when they cannot 
recognise the handwriting, as if to discover from paper or seal 
what two moments would assure them of, if they opened the 
letter and looked at the signature. Ellinor could not guess who 
had written it by any outward sign ; but the moment she saw the 
name " Herbert Livingstone," the meaning of-^the letter flashed 
upon her and she coloured all over. She put the letter away, 
unread, for a few minutes, and then made some excuse for leaving 
the room and going upstairs. When safe in her bedchamber, 
she read the young man's eager words with a sense of self- 
reproach. How must she, engaged to one man, have been 
behaving to another, if this was the result of a single evening's 
interview ? The self-reproach was unjustly bestowed ; but with 
that we have nothing to do. She made herself very miserable ; 
and at last went down with a heavy heart to go on with Dante, 
and rummage up words in the dictionary. All the time she 
•seemed to Miss Monro to be plodding on with her Italian more 
diligently and sedately than usual, she was planning in her own 
mind to speak to her father as soon as he returned (and he had 
said that he should not be late), and beg him to undo the mischief 
she had done by seeing Mr. Livingstone the next morning, and 
frankly explaining the real state of affairs to him. But she 
wanted to read her letter again, and think it all over in peace ; 
and so, at an early hour, she wished Miss Monro good-night, 
and went up into her own room above the drawing-room, and 
overlooking the flower-garden and shrubbery-path to the stable- 
yard, by which her father was sure to return. She went upstairs 
and studied her letter well, and tried to recall all her speeches 
and conduct on that miserable evening — as she thought it then 
— not knowing what true misery was. Her head ached, and 
she put out the candle, and went and sat on the window-seat, 
looking out into the moonht garden, watching for her father. 
She opened the window ; partly to cool her forehead, partly to 
enable her to call down softly when she should see him coming 
along. By-and-by the door from the stable-yard into the 
shrubbery clicked and opened, and in a moment she saw Mr. 



54 A DARK night's WORK. 

Wilkins moving through the bushes ; but not alone, Mr, Dunster 
was with him, and the two were talking together in rather ex- 
cited tones, immediately lost to hearing, however, as they entered 
Mr. Wilkins's study by the outer door. 

"They have been dining together somewhere. Probably at 
Mr. Hanbury's" (the Hamley brewer), thought Ellinor. "But 
how provoking that he should have come home with papa this 
night of all nights ! " 

Two or three times before Mr. Dunster had called on Mr. 
Wilkins in the evening, as Ellinor knew ; but she was not 
quite aware of the reason for such late visits, and had never 
put together the two facts — as cause and consequence) — that 
on such occasions her father had been absent from the office 
all day, and that there might be necessary business for him 
to transact, the urgency of which was the motive for Mr. 
Dunster's visits. Mr. Wilkins always seemed to be annoyed 
by his coming at so late an hour, and spoke of it, resenting 
the intrusion upon his leisure ; and EUinor, without considera- 
tion, adopted her father's mode of speaking and thinking on 
the subject, and was rather more angry than he was whenever 
the obnoxious partner came on business in the evening. This 
night was, of all nights, the most ill-purposed time (so Ellinor 
thought) for a tete-a-tete with her father ! However, there 
was no doubt in her mind as to what she had to do. So late 
as it was, the unwelcome visitor could not stop long ; and then 
she would go down and have her little confidence with her 
father, and beg him to see Mr. Livingstone when he came 
next morning, and dismiss him as gently as might be. 

She sat on in the window-seat ; dreaming waking dreams 
of future happiness. She kept losing herself in such thoughts, 
and became almost afraid of forgetting why she sat there. 
Presently she felt cold, and got up to fetch a shawl, in 
which she muffled herself and resumed her place. It seemed 
to her growing very late ; the moonlight was coming fuller 
and fuller into the garden and the blackness of the shadow 
was more concentrated and stronger. Surely Mr. Dunster 
could not have gone away along the dark shrubbery-path 
so noiselessly but what she must have heard him? No! 
there was the swell of voices coming up through the window 
from her father's study : angry voices they were ; and her 
anger rose sympathetically, as she knew that her father was 



A DARK night's WORK. 55 

being irritated. There was a sudden movement, as of chairs 
pushed hastily aside, and then a mysterious unaccountable 
noise — heavy, sudden ; and then a slight movement as of 
<:hairs again ; and then a profound stillness. Ellinor leaned 
her head against the side of the window to listen more intently, 
for some mysterious instinct made her sick and faint. No sound — 
no noise. Only by-and-by she heard, what we have ail heard 
at such times of intent listening, the beating of the pulses of 
her heart, and then the whirling rush of blood through her 
head. How long did this last? She never knew. By-and-by 
she heard her father's hurried footstep in his bedroom, next 
to hers ; but when she ran thither to speak to him, and ask 
him what was amiss — if anything had been — if she might 
come to him now about Mr. Livingstone's letter, she found 
that he had gone down again to his study, and almost at the 
same moment she heard the little private outer door of that 
room open ; some one went out, and then there were hurried 
footsteps along the shrubbery-path. She thought, of course, 
that it was Mr. Dunster leaving the house ; and went back for 
Mr. Livingstone's letter. Having found it, she passed through 
her father's room to the private staircase, thinking that if 
she went by the more regular way, she would have run 
the risk of disturbing Miss Monro, and perhaps of being 
questioned in the morning. Even in passing down this remote 
staircase, she trod softly for fear of being overheard. When 
she entered the room, the full light of the candles dazzled her 
for an instant, coming out of the darkness. They were flaring 
wildly in the draught that came in through the open door, by 
which the outer air was admitted ; for a moment there seemed 
no one in the room, and then she saw, with strange sick horror, 
the legs of some one lying on the carpet behind the table. As 
if compelled, even while she shrank from doing it, she went 
round to see who it was that lay there so still and motionless as 
never to stir at her sudden coming. It was Mr. Dunster ; his 
head propped on chair-cushions, his eyes open, staring, dis- 
tended. There was a strong smell of brandy and hartshorn in 
the room ; a smell so powerful as not to be neutralised by the 
free current of night air that blew through the two open doors. 
Ellinor could not have told whether it was reason or instinct 
that made her act as she did during this awful night. In think- 
ing of it afterwards, with shuddering avoidance of the haunting 



56 A DARK night's WORK. 

memory that would come and overshadow her during many, 
many years of her hfe, she grew to believe that the powerful 
smell of the spilt brandy absolutely intoxicated her — an un- 
conscious Rechabite in practice. But something gave her a 
presence of mind and a courage not her own. And though 
she learnt to think afterwards that she had acted unwisely, if 
not wrongly and wickedly, yet she marvelled, in recalling that 
time, how she could have then behaved as she did. First of all 
she lifted herself up from her fascinated gaze at the dead man, 
and went to the staircase door, by which she had entered the 
study, and shut it softly. Then she went back — looked again ; 
took the brandy-bottle, and knelt down, and tried to pour some 
into the mouth ; but this she found she could not do. Then she 
wetted her handkerchief with the spirit, and moistened the lips ; 
all to no purpose ; for, as I have said before, the man was dead 
— killed by rupture of a vessel of the brain ; how occasioned I 
must tell by-and-by. Of course, all Ellinor's little cares and 
efforts produced no effect ; her father had tried them before — 
vain endeavours all, to bring back the precious breath of life ! 
The poor girl could not bear the look of those open eyes, and 
softly, tenderly, tried to close them, although unconscious that 
in so doing she was rendering the pious ofhces of some beloved 
hand to a dead man. She was sitting by the body on the floor 
when she heard steps coming with rushing and yet cautious 
tread, through the shrubbery ; she had no fear, although it 
might be the tread of robbers and murderers. The awfulness 
of the hour raised her above common fears ; though she did not 
go through the usual process of reasoning, and by it feel assured 
that the feet which were coming so softly and swiftly along were 
the same which she had heard leaving the room in like manner 
only a quarter of an hour before. 

Her father entered, and started back, almost upsetting some 
one behind him by his recoil, on seeing his daughter in her 
motionless attitude by the dead man. 

"My God, Ellinor ! what has brought you here?" he said, 
almost fiercely. 

But she answered as one stupefied — 

•' I don't know. Is he dead?" 

" Hush, hush, child ; it cannot be helped." 

She raised her eyes to the solemn, pitying, awe-stricken face 
behind her father's — the countenance of Dixon. 



A DARK night's WORK. 57 

" Is he dead ? " she asked of him. 

The man stepped forwards, respectfully pushing his master on 
one side as he did so. He bent down over the corpse, and 
looked, and hstened, and then reaching a candle off the table, 
he signed Mr. Wilkins to close the door. And Mr. Wilkins 
obeyed, and looked with an intensity of eagerness almost 
amounting to faintness on the experiment, and yet he could 
not hope. The flame was steady — steady and pitilessly un- 
stirred, even when it was adjusted close to mouth and nostril ; 
the head was raised up by one of Dixon's stalwart arms, while 
he held the candle in the other hand. EUinor fancied that 
there was some trembling on Dixon's part, and grasped his 
wrist tightly in order to give it the requisite motionless firmness. 

All in vain. The head was placed again on the cushions, the 
servant rose and stood by his master, looked sadly on the dead 
man, whom, hving, none of them had liked or cared for, and 
Ellinor sat on, quiet and tearless, as one in a trance. 

" How was it, father?" at length she asked. 

He would fain have had her ignorant of all, but so questioned 
by her lips, so adjured by her eyes, in the very presence of 
death, he could not choose but speak the truth ; he spoke it in 
convulsive gasps, each sentence an effort — 

"He taunted me — he was insolent, beyond my patience — I 
could not bear it. I struck him — I can't tell how it was. He 
must have hit his head in falling. Oh, my God ! one little hour 
ago I was innocent of this man's blood ! " He covered his face 
with his hands. 

Ellinor took the candle again ; kneeling behind Mr. Dunster's 
head she tried the futile experiment once more. 

" Could not a doctor do some good?" she asked of Dixon, in 
a hopeless voice. 

" No ! " said he, shaking his head, and looking with a side- 
long glance at his master, who seemed to shrivel up and to 
shrink away at the bare suggestion. " Doctors can do nought, 
I'm afeard. All that a doctor could do, I take it, would be to 
open a vein, and that I could do along with the best of them, 
if I had but my fleam here." He fumbled in his pockets as he 
spoke, and, as chance would have it, the "fleam" (or cattle lancet) 
was somewhere about his dress. He drew it out, smoothed and 
tried it on his finger. Ellinor tried to bare the arm, but turned 
sick as she did so. Her father started eagerly forwards, and did 



53 A DARK night's WORK. 

what was necessary with hurried trembhng hands. If they had 
cared less about the result, they might have been more afraid 
of the consequences of the operation in the hands of one so 
ignorant as Dixon. But, vein or artery, it signified little ; no 
living blood gushed out ; only a little watery moisture followed 
the cut of the fleam. They laid him back on his strange sad 
death-couch. Dixon spoke next. 

" Master N'ed ! " said he — for he had known Mr. Wilkins in 
his days of bright careless boyhood, and almost was carried 
back to them by the sense of charge and protection which the 
servant's presence of mind and sharpened senses gave him over 
his master on this dreary night — "Master Ned! we must do 
summut." 

No one spoke. What was to be done? 

" Did any folk see him come here? " Dixon asked, after a time. 
EUinor looked up to hear her father's answer, a wild hope coming 
into her mind that all might be concealed somehow ; she did 
not know how, nor did she think of any consequences except 
saving her father from the vague dread, trouble, and punishment 
that she was aware would await him if all were known. 

Mr. Wilkins did not seem to hear ; in fact, he did not hear 
anything but tiie unspoken echo of his own last words, that 
w^ent booming through his heart : "An hour ago I was innocent 
of this man's blood ! Only an hour ago ! " 

Dixon got up and poured out half a tumblerful of raw spirit 
from the brandy-bottle that stood on the table. 

"Drink this, Master Ned!" putting it to his master's hps. 
" Nay" — to EUinor — " it will do him no harm ; only bring back 
his senses, which, poor gentleman, are scared away. We shall 
need all our wits. Now, sir, please answer my question. Did 
any one see Measter Dunster come here? " 

"I don't know," said Mr. Wilkins, recovering his speech. 
"It all seems in a mist. He offered to walk home with me ; I 
did not want him. I was almost rude to him to keep him off. 
I did not want to talk of business ; I had taken too much wine 
to be very clear, and some things at the office were not quite in 
order, and he had found it out. If any one heard our conversa- 
tion, they must know I did not want him to come with me. 
Oh ! why would he come ! He was as obstinate — he would 
come — and here it has been his death ! " 

"Well, sir, what's done can't be undone, and I'm sure we'd 



A DARK night's WORK. 59 

any of us bring him back to life if we could, even by cutting off 
our hands, though he was a mighty plaguey chap while lie'd 
breath in him. But what I'm thinking is this : it'll maybe go 
awkward with you, sir, if he's found here. One can't say. But 
don't you think, miss, as he's neither kith nor kin to miss him, 
we might just bury him away before morning, somewhere? 
There's better nor four hours of dark. I wish we could put him 
i' the churchyard, but that can't be ; but, to my mind, the 
sooner we set about digging a place for him to lie in, poor 
fellow, the better it'll be for us all in the end. I can pare a 
piece of turf up where it'll never be missed, and if master '11 
take one spade, and I another, why, we'll lay him softly down, 
and cover him up, and no one '11 be the wiser." 

There was no reply from either for a minute or so. Then 
Mr. Wilkin s said — 

" If my father could have known of my living to this ! Why, 
they will try me as a criminal ; and you, Ellinor? Dixon, you 
are right. We must conceal it, or I must cut my throat, for I 
never could live through it. One minute of passion, and my 
life blasted !" 

"Come along, sir," said Dixon; "there's no time to lose." 
And they went out in search of tools; Ellinor following them, 
shivering all over, but begging that she might be with them, 
and not have to remain in the study with 

She would not be bidden into her own room ; she dreaded 
inaction and solitude. She made herself busy with carrying 
heavy baskets of turf, and straining her strength to the utmost ; 
fetching all that was wanted, with soft swift steps. 

Once, as she passed near the open study door, she thought 
that she heard a rustling, and a flash of hope came across her. 
Could he be reviving? She entered, but a moment was enough 
to undeceive her ; it had only been a night rustle among the 
trees. Of hope, life, there was none. 

They dug the hole deep and well ; working with fierce energy 
to quench thought and remorse. Once or twice her father asked 
/or brandy, which Ellinor, reassured by the apparently good 
effect of the first dose, brought to him without a word ; and 
once at her father's suggestion she brought food, such as she 
could find in the dining-room without disturbing the household, 
for Dixon. 

When all was ready for the reception of the body in its un- 



6o A DARK night's WORK. 

blessed grave, Mr. Wilkins bade Ellinor go up to her own room 
— she had done all she could to help them ; the rest must be 
done by them alone. She felt that it must; and indeed both 
her nerves and her bodily strength were giving way. She 
would have kissed her father, as he sat wearily at the head of 
the grave — Dixon had gone in to make some arrangement 
for carrying the corpse — but he pushed her away quietly, but 
resolutely — 

"No, Nelly, you must never kiss me again; I am a mur- 
derer." 

" But I will, my own darling papa," said she, throwing her 
arms passionately round his neck, and covering his face with 
kisses. "I love you, and I don't care what you are, if you 
were twenty times a murderer, which you are not ; I am sure 
it was only an accident." 

"Go in, my child, go in, and try to get some rest. But go 
in, for we must finish as fast as we can. The moon is down ; 
it will soon be daylight. What a blessing there are no rooms 
on one side of the house. Go, Nelly." And she went ; strain- 
ing herself up to move noiselessly, with eyes averted, through 
the room which she shuddered at as the place of hasty and un- 
hallowed death. 

Once in her own room she bolted the door on the inside, and 
then stole to the window, as if some fascination impelled her to 
watch all the proceedings to the end. But her aching eyes 
could hardly penetrate through the thick darkness, which at 
the time of the year of which I am speaking, so closely precedes 
the dawn. She could discern the tops of the trees against the 
sky, and could single out the well-known one, at a little distance 
from the stem of which the grave was made, in the very piece 
of turf over which so lately she and Ralph had had their merry 
little tea-making ; and where her father, as she now remembered, 
had shuddered and shivered, as if the ground on which his seat 
had then been placed was fateful and ominous to him. 

Those below moved softly and quietly in all they did ; but 
every sound had a significant and terrible interpretation to 
Ellinor's ears. Before they had ended, the little birds had 
begun to pipe out their gay reveillde to the dawn. Then doors 
closed, and all was profoundly still. 

Ellinor threw herself, in her clothes, on the bed ; and was 
thankful for the intense weary physical pain which took off 



A DARK night's WORK. 6l 

something of the anguish of thought — anguish that she fancied 
from time to time was leading to insanity. 

By-and-by the morning cold made her instinctively creep 
between the blankets ; and, once there, she fell into a dead 
heavy sleep. 



CHAPTER VII. 

Ellinor was awakened by a rapping at her door : it was her 
maid. 

She was fully aroused in a moment, for she had fallen asleep 
with one clearly defined plan in her mind, only one, for all 
thoughts and cares having no relation to the terrible event were 
as though they had never been. All her purpose was to shield 
her father from suspicion. And to do this she must control 
herself— heart, mind, and body must be ruled to this one end. 

So she said to Mason — 

*' Let me lie half-an-hour longer; and beg Miss Monro not 
to wait breakfast for me ; but in half-an-hour bring me up a 
cup of strong tea, for I have a bad headache." 

Mason went away. Ellinor sprang up ; rapidly undressed 
herself, and got into bed again, so that when her maid returned 
with her breakfast, there was no appearance of the night having 
been passed in any unusual manner. 

" How ill you do look, miss ! " said Mason. " I am sure you 
had better not get up yet." 

Ellinor longed to ask if her father had yet shown himself; but 
this question — so natural at any other time — seemed to her so 
suspicious under the circumstances, that she could not bring her 
lips to frame it. At any rate, she must get up and struggle to 
make the day like all other days. So she rose, confessing that 
she did not feel very well, but trying to make light of it, and 
when she could think of anything but the one awe, to say a 
trivial sentence or two. But she could not recollect how she 
behaved in general, for her hfe hitherto had been simple, and 
led without any consciousness of effect. 

Before she was dressed, a message came up to say that Mr. 
Livingstone was in the drawing-room. 

Mr. Livingstone ! He belonged to the old Hfe of yesterday ! 
The billows of the night had swept over his mark on the sands 



62 A DARK night's WORK. 

of her memory ; and it was only by a strong effort that she could 
remember who he was — what he waiited. She sent Mason down 
to inquire from the servant who admitted him whom it was that 
he had asked for. 

" He asked for master first. But master has not rung for his 
water yet, so James told him he was not up. Then he took 
thought for a while, and asked could he speak to you, he would 
wait if you were not at hberty ; but that he wished particular to 
see either master, or you. So James asked him to sit down in 
the drawing-room, and he would let you know." 

"I must go," thought EUinor. "I will send him away 
directly ; to come, thinking of marriage, to a house hke this — 
to-day, too ! " 

And she went down hastily, and in a hard unsparing mood 
towards a man, whose affection for her she thought was like a 
gourd, grown up in a night, and of no account, but as a piece 
of foolish, boyish excitement. 

She never thought of her own appearance — she had dressed 
without looking in the glass. Her only object was to dismiss 
her would-be suitor as speedily as possible. All feelings of shy- 
ness, awkwardness, or maiden modesty, were quenched and 
overcome. In she went. 

He was standing by the mantelpiece as she entered. He 
made a step or two forward to meet her ; and then stopped, 
petrified, as it were, at the sight of her hard white face. 

* ' Miss Wilkins, I am afraid you are ill ! I have come too 
early. But I have to leave Hamley in half-an-hour, and I 
thought Oh, Miss Wilkins ! what have I done? " 

For she sank into the chair nearest to her, as if overcome by 
his words ; but indeed, it was by the oppression of her own 
thoughts : she was hardly conscious of his presence. 

He came a step or two nearer, as if he longed to take her in 
his arms and comfort and shelter her ; but she stiffened herself 
and arose, and by an effort walked towards the fireplace, and 
there stood, as if awaiting what he would say next. But he was 
overwhelmed by her aspect of illness. He almost forgot his 
own wishes, his own suit, in his desire to relieve her from the 
pain, physical as he believed it, under which she was suffering. 
It was she who had to begin the subject. 

"I received your letter yesterday, Mr. Livingstone. I was 
anxious to see you to-day, in order that I might prevent you 



A DARK night's WORK. 6^ 

from speaking to my father. I do not say anything of the kind 
of affection you can feel for me — me, whom you have only seen 
once. All I shall say is, that the sooner we both forget what I 
must call folly, the better." 

She took the airs of a woman considerably older and more 
experienced than himself. He thought her haughty ; she was 
only miserable. 

"You are mistaken," said he, more quietly and with more 
dignity than was Hkely from his previous conduct. " I will not 
allow you to characterise as folly what might be presumptuous 
on my part — I had no business to express myself so soon — but 
which in its foundation was true and sincere. That I can answer 
for most solemnly. It is possible, though it may not be a usual 
thing, for a man to feel so strongly attracted by the charms and 
qualities of a woman, even at first sight, as to feel sure that she, 
and she alone, can make his happiness. My folly consisted — 
there you are right — in even dreaming that you could return my 
feelings in the shghtest degree, when you had only seen me 
once ; and I am most truly ashamed of myself. I cannot tell 
you how sorry I am, when I see how you have compelled your- 
self to come and speak to me when you are so ill." 

She staggered into a chair, for with all her wish for his speedy 
dismissal, she was obliged to be seated. His hand was upon 
the bell. 

" No, don't ! " she said. "Wait a minute." 

His eyes, bent upon her with a look of deep anxiety, touched 
her at that moment, and she was on the point of shedding tears ; 
but she checked herself, and rose again. 

"T will go," said he. "It is the kindest thing I can do. 
Only, may I write ! May I venture to write and urge what I 
have to say more coherently?" 

' * No ! " said she. * ' Don't write. I have given you my answer. 
We are nothing, and can be nothing to each other. I am 
engaged to be married. I should not have told you if you had 
not been so kind. Thank you. But go now." 

The poor young man's face fell, and he became almost as 
white as she was for the instant. After a moment's reflection, 
he took her hand in his, and said — 

" May God bless you, and him too, whoever he be ! But if 
you want a friend, I may be that friend, may I not? and try to 
prove that my words of regard are true, in a better and higher 



;/" 



64 A DARK night's WORK. 

sense than I used them at first." And kissing her passive hand, 
he was gone and she was left sitting alone. 

But solitude was not what she could bear. She went quickly- 
upstairs, and took a strong dose of sal-volatile, even while she 
heard Miss Monro calling to her. 

"My dear, who was that gentleman that has been closeted 
with you in the drawing-room all this time?" 

And then, without listening to EUinor's reply, she went on — 

" Mrs. Jackson has been here " (it was at Mrs. Jackson's house 
that Mr. Dunster lodged), "wanting to know if we could tell 
her where Mr. Dunster was, for he never came home last night 
at all. And you were in the drawing-room with — who did you 
say he was? — that Mr. Livingstone, who might have come at a 
better time to bid good-bye ; and he had never dined here, had 
he? so I don't see any reason he had to come calling, and P. P. 
C.-ing, and your papa not up. So I said to Mrs. Jackson, ' I'll 
send and ask Mr. Wilkins, if you like, but I don't see any use 
in it, for I can tell you just as well as anybody, that Mr. Dunster 
is not in this house, wherever he may be.' Yet nothing would 
satisfy her but that some one must go and waken up your papa, 
and ask if he could tell where Mr. Dunster was." 

"And did papa?" inquired Ellinor, her dry throat huskily 
forming the inquiry that seemed to be expected from her. 

" No ! to be sure not. How should Mr. Wilkins know? As 
I said to Mrs. Jackson, ' Mr. Wilkins is not likely to know where 
Mr. Dunster spends his time when he is not in the office, for 
they do not move in the same rank of life, my good woman ; ' 
and Mrs. Jackson apologised, but said that yesterday they had 
both been dining at Mr. Hodgson's together, she believed ; and 
somehow she had got it into her head that Mr. Dunster might 
have missed his way in coming along Moore Lane, and might 
have slipped into the canal ; so she just thought she would step 
up and ask Mr. Wilkins if they had left Mr. Hodgson's together, 
or if your papa had driven home. I asked her why she had not 
told me all these particulars before, for I could have asked your 
papa myself all about when he last saw Mr. Dunster; and I 
went up to ask him a second time, but he did not like it at all, 
for he was busy dressing, and I had to shout my questions 
through the door, and he could not always hear me at first." 

" What did he say?" 

" Oh ! he had walked part of the way with Mr. Dunster, and 



A DARK night's WORK. 65 

then cut across by the short path through the fields, as far as I 
could understand him through the door. He seemed very much 
annoyed to hear that Mr. Dunster had not been at home all 
night ; but he said I was to tell Mrs. Jackson that he would 
go to the office as soon as he had had his breakfast, which he 
ordered to be sent up directly into his own room, and he had no 
doubt it would all turn out right ; but that she had better go 
home at once. And, as I told her, she might find Mr. Dunster 
there by the time she got there. There, there is your papa 
going out ! He has not lost any time over his breakfast ! " 

Ellinor had taken up the Hamley Exa7niner, a daily paper, 
which lay on the table, to hide her face in the first instance ; 
but it served a second purpose, as she glanced languidly over 
the columns of the advertisements. 

"Oh ! here are Colonel Macdonald's orchideous plants to be 
sold. All the stock of hothouse and stove plants at Hartwell 
Priory. I must send James over to Hartwell to attend the sale. 
It is to last for three days." 

" But can he be spared for so long?" 

"Oh, yes ; he had better stay at the little inn there, to be on 
the spot. Three days," and as she spoke, she ran out to the 
gardener, who was sweeping up the newly-mown grass in the 
front of the house. She gave him hasty and unlimited directions, 
only seeming intent — if any one had been suspiciously watching 
her words and actions — to hurry him off to the distant village, 
where the auction was to take place. 

When he was once gone she breathed more freely. Now, no 
one but the three cognisant of the terrible reason of the disturb- 
ance of the turf under the trees in a certain spot in the belt 
round the flower-garden, would be hkely to go into the place. 
Miss Monro might wander round with a book in her hand ; but 
she never noticed anything, and was short-sighted into the 
bargain. Three days of this moist, warm, growing weather, 
and the green grass would spring, just as if life — was what it 
had been twenty-four hours before. 

When all this was done and said, it seemed as if Ellinor's 
strength and spirit sank down at once. Her voice became 
feeble, her aspect wan ; and although she told Miss Monro 
that nothing was the matter, yet it was impossible for any one 
who loved her not to perceive that she was far from well. The 
kind governess placed, her pupil on the sofa, covered her feet 

c 



66 A DARK night's WORK. 

up warmly, darkened the room, and then stole out on tiptoe, 
fancying that Ellinor would sleep. Her eyes were, indeed, 
shut ; but try as much as she would to be quiet, she was up in 
less than five minutes after Miss Monro had left the room, and 
walking up and down in all the restless agony of body that 
arises from an overstrained mind. But soon Miss Monro re- 
appeared, bringing with her a dose of soothing medicine of 
her own concocting, for she was great in domestic quackery. 
What the medicine was Ellinor did not care to know ; she 
drank it without any sign of her usual merry resistance to physic 
of Miss Monro's ordering ; and as the latter took up a book, 
and showed a set purpose of remaining with her patient, Ellinor 
was compelled to lie still, and presently fell asleep. 

She awakened late in the afternoon with a start. Her father 
was standing over her, listening to Miss Monro's account of her 
indisposition. She only caught one glimpse of his strangely 
altered countenance, and hid her head in the cushions — hid it 
from memory, not from him. For in an instant she must have 
conjectured the interpretation he was hkely to put upon her 
shrinking action, and she had turned towards him, and had 
thrown her arms round his neck, and was kissing his cold, 
passive face. Then she fell back. But all this time their sad 
eyes never met — they dreaded the look of recollection that must 
be in each other's gaze. 

" There, my dear ! " said Miss Monro. " Now you must lie 
still till I fetch you a little broth. You are better now, are not 
you?" 

"You need not go for the broth. Miss Monro," said Mr. 
Wilkins, ringing the bell. " Fletcher can surely bring it." He 
dreaded the being left alone with his daughter — nor did she 
fear it less. She heard the strange alteration in her father's 
voice, hard and hoarse, as if it was an effort to speak. The 
physical signs of his suffering cut her to the heart ; and yet she 
wondered how it was that they could both be alive, or, if alive, 
they were not rending their garments and crying aloud. Mr. 
Wilkins seemed to have lost the power of careless action and 
speech, it is true. He wished to leave the room now his anxiety 
about his daughter was relieved, but hardly knew how to set 
about it. He was obliged to think about the veriest trifle, in 
order that by an effort of reason he might understand how he 
should have spoken or acted if he had been free from blood- 



A DARK night's WORK. 67 

guiltiness. Ellinor understood all by intuition. But hence- 
forward the unspoken comprehension of each other's hidden 
motions made their mutual presence a burdensome anxiety to 
each. Miss Monro was a relief; they were glad of her as a 
third person, unconscious of the secret which constrained them. 
This afternoon her unconsciousness gave present pain, although 
on after reflection each found in her speeches a cause of 
rejoicing. 

" And Mr. Dunster, Mr. Wilkins, has he come home yet?" 

A moment's pause, in which Mr. Wilkins pumped the words 
out of his husky throat — 

" I have not heard. I have been riding. I went on business 
to Mr. Estcourt's. Perhaps you will be so kind as to send and 
inquire at Mrs. Jackson's." 

Ellinor sickened at the words. She had been all her life a 
truthful plain-spoken girl. She held herself high above deceit. 
Yet, here came the necessity for deceit — a snare spread around 
her. She had not revolted so much from the deed which 
brought unpremeditated death, as she did from these words of 
her father's. The night before, in her mad fever of affright, 
she had fancied that to conceal the body was all that would 
be required ; she had not looked forward to the long, weary 
course of small lies, to be done and said, involved in that one 
mistaken action. Yet, while her father's words made her soul 
revolt, his appearance melted her heart, as she caught it, half 
turned away from her, neither looking straight at Miss Monro, 
nor at anything materially visible. His hollow sunken eye 
seemed to EUinor to have a vision of the dead man before 
it. His cheek was livid and worn, and its healthy colouring, 
gained by years of hearty outdoor exercise, was all gone into 
the wanness of age. His hair, even to Ellinor, seemed greyer 
for the past night of wretchedness. He stooped, and looked 
dreamily earthward, where formerly he had stood erect. It 
needed all the pity called forth by such observation to quench 
Ellinor's passionate contempt for the course on which she and 
her father were embarked, when she heard him repeat his words 
to the servant who came with her broth. 

" Fletcher ! go to Mrs. Jackson's and inquire if Mr. Dunster 
is come home yet. I want to speak to him." 

"To him !" lying dead where he had been laid ; killed by the 
man who now asked for his presence. Ellinor shut her eyes, and 



68 A DARK night's WORK. 

lay back in despair. She wished she might die, and be out of 
this horrible tangle of events. 

Two minutes after, she was conscious of her father and Miss 
Monro stealing softly out of the room. They thought that 
she slept. 

She sprang off the sofa and knelt down. 

"O God," she prayed, "Thou knowest ! Help me ! There 
is none other help but Thee ! " 

I suppose she fainted. For, an hour or more afterwards, 
Miss Monro, coming in, found her lying insensible by the side 
of the sofa. 

She was carried to bed. She was not delirious, she was only 
in a stupor, which they feared might end in delirium. To 
obviate this, her father sent far and wide for skilful physicians, 
who tended her, almost at the rate of a guinea the minute. 

People said how hard it was upon Mr. Wilkins, that scarcely 
had that wretch Dunster gone off, with no one knows how 
much out of the trusts of the firm, before his only child fell 
ill. And, to tell the truth, he himself looked burnt and seared 
with affliction. He had a startled look, they said, as if he 
never could tell, after such experience, from which side the 
awful proofs of the uncertainty of earth would appear, the 
terrible phantoms of unforeseen dread. Both rich and poor, 
town and country, sympathised with him. The rich cared 
not to press their claims, or their business, at such a time ; 
and only wondered, in their superficial talk after dinner, how 
such a good fellow as Wilkins could ever have been deceived 
by a man like Dunster. Even Sir Frank Holster and his lady 
forgot their old quarrel, and came to inquire after Ellinor, and 
sent her hothouse fruit by the bushel. 

Mr. Corbet behaved as an anxious lover should do. He wrote 
daily to Miss Monro to beg for the most minute bulletins ; he 
procured everything in town that any doctor even fancied might 
be of service. He came down as soon as there was the slightest 
hint of permission that Ellinor might see him. He overpowered 
her with tender words and caresses, till at last she shrank away 
from them, as from something too bewildering, and past all 
right comprehension. 

But one night before this, when all windows and doors stood 
open to admit the least breath that stirred the sultry July air, a 
servant on velvet tiptoe had stolen up to EUinor's open door, and 



A DARK night's WORK. 69 

had beckoned out of the chamber of the sleeper the ever watchful 
nurse, Miss Monro. 

"A gentleman wants you," were all the words the housemaid 
dared to say so close to the bedroom. And softly, softly Miss 
Monro stepped down the stairs, into the drawing-room ; and 
there she saw Mr. Livingstone. But she did not know him ; 
she had never seen him before. 

" I have travelled all day. I heard she was ill — was dying. 
May I just have one more look at her? I will not speak ; I will 
hardly breathe. Only let me see her once again ! " 

" I beg your pardon, sir, but I don't know who you are ; and 
if you mean Miss Wilkins by ' her,' she is very ill, but we hope 
not dying. She was very ill, indeed, yesterday ; very dangerously 
ill, I may say, but she is having a good sleep, in consequence of 
a soporific medicine, and we are really beginning to hope" 

But just here Miss Monro's hand was taken, and, to her infinite 
surprise, was kissed before she could remember how improper 
such behaviour was. 

" God bless you, madam, for saying so. But if she sleeps, will 
you let me see her? it can do no harm, for I will tread as if on 
egg-shells ; and I have come so far — if I might just look on her 
sweet face. Pray, madam, let me just have one sight of her. I 
will not ask for more." 

But he did ask for more after he had had his wish. He stole 
upstairs after Miss Monro, who looked round reproachfully at 
him if even a nightingale sang, or an owl hooted in the trees 
outside the open windows, yet who paused to say herself, outside 
Mr. Wilkins's chamber door — 

" Her father's room ; he has not been in bed for six nights, 
till to-night ; pray do not make a noise to waken him." And on 
into the deep stillness of the hushed room, where one clear ray 
of hidden lamplight shot athwart the floor, where a watcher, 
breathing softly, sat beside the bed — where Ellinor's dark head 
lay motionless on the white pillow, her face almost as white, her 
form almost as still. You might have heard a pin fall. After a 
while he moved to withdraw. Miss Monro, jealous of every 
sound, followed him, with steps all the more heavy because they 
were taken with so much care, down the stairs, back into the 
drawing-room. By the bed-candle flaring in the draught, she 
saw that there was the glittering mark of wet tears on his cheek ; 
and she felt, as she said afterwards, "sorry for the young man." 



70 A DARK night's WORK. 

And yet she urged him to go, for she knew that she might be 
wanted upstairs. He took her hand, and wrung it hard. 

"Thank you. She looked so changed — oh! she looked as 
though she were dead. You will write — Herbert Livingstone, 
Langham Vicarage, Yorkshire ; you will promise me to write. 
If I could do anything for her, but I can but pray. Oh, my 
darling ; my darling ! and I have no right to be with her." 

" Go away, there's a good young man," said Miss Monro, all 
the more pressing to hurry him out by the front door, because 
she was afraid of his emotion overmastering him, and making 
him noisy in his demonstrations. " Yes, I will write ; I will write, 
never fear ! " and she bolted the door behind him and was 
thankful. 

Two minutes afterwards there was a low tap ; she undid the 
fastenings, and there he stood, pale in the moonhght. 

" Please don't tell her I came to ask about her ; she might not 
like it." 

" No, no ! not I ! Poor creature, she's not likely to care to 
hear anything this long while. She never roused at Mr. Corbet's 
name." 

" Mr. Corbet's ! " said Livingstone, below his breath, and he 
turned and went away ; this time for good. 

But EUinor recovered. She knew she was recovering, when 
day after day she felt involuntary strength and appetite return. 
Her body seemed stronger than her will ; for that would have 
induced her to creep into her grave, and shut her eyes for ever 
on this world, so full of troubles. 

She lay, for the most part, with her eyes closed, very still and 
quiet ; but she thought with the intensity of one who seeks for 
lost peace, and cannot find it. She began to see that if in the 
mad impulses of that mad nightmare of horror, they had all 
strengthened each other, and dared to be frank and open, con- 
fessing a great fault, a greater disaster, a greater woe— which in 
the first instance was hardly a crime — their future course, though 
sad and sorrowful, would have been a simple and straightforward 
one to tread. But it was not for her to undo what was done, 
and to reveal the error and shame of a father. Only she, turning 
anew to God, in the solemn and quiet watches of the night, made 
a covenant, that in her conduct, her own personal individual life, 
she would act loyally and truthfully. And as for the future, and 
all the terrible chances involved in it, she would leave it in His 



A DARK night's WORK. 7 1 

hands — if, indeed (and here came in the Tempter), He would 
watch over one whose hfe hereafter must seem based upon a he. 
Her only plea, offered " standing afar off," was, " The lie is said 
and done and over — it was not for my own sake. Can filial piety 
be so overcome by the rights of justice and truth, as to demand 
of me that I should reveal my father's guilt." 

Her father's severe sharp punishment began. He knew why 
she suffered, what made her young strength falter and tremble, 
what made her life seem nigh about to be quenched in death. 
Yet he could not take his sorrow and care in the natural manner. 
He was obliged to think how every word and deed would be con- 
strued. He fancied that people were watching him with suspicious 
eyes, when nothing was further from their thoughts. For once 
let the " public " of any place be possessed by an idea, it is more 
difiicult to dislodge it than any one imagines who has not tried. 
If Mr. Wilkins had gone into the Hamley market-place, and pro- 
claimed himself guilty of the manslaughter of Mr. Dunster — nay, 
if he had detailed all the circumstances — the people would have 
exclaimed, "Poor man, he is crazed by this discovery of the 
unworthiness of the man he trusted so ; and no wonder — it was 
such a thing to have done — to have defrauded his partner to such 
an extent, and then have made off to America ! " 

For many small circumstances, which I do not stop to detail 
here, went far to prove this, as we know, unfounded supposition ; 
and Mr. Wilkins, who was known, from his handsome boyhood, 
through his comely manhood, up to the present time, by all the 
people in Hamley, was an object of sympathy and respect to 
every one who saw him, as he passed by, old, and lorn, and 
haggard before his time, all through the evil conduct of one, 
London-bred, who was as a hard, unlovely stranger to the 
popular mind of this little country town. 

Mr. Wilkins's own servants liked him. The workings of his 
temptations were such as they could understand. If he had been 
hot-tempered he had also been generous, or I should rather say 
careless and lavish with his money. And now that he was 
cheated and impoverished by his partner's delinquency, they 
thought it no wonder that he drank long and deep in the solitary 
evenings which he passed at home. It was not that he was 
without invitations. Every one came forward to testify their 
respect for him by asking him to their houses. He had probably 
never been so universally popular since his father's death. But, 



72 A DARK night's WORK. 

as he said, he did not care to go into society while his daughter 
was so ill — he had no spirits for company. 

But if any one had cared to observe his conduct at home, and 
to draw conclusions from it, they could have noticed that, 
anxious as he was about EUinor, he rather avoided than sought 
her presence, now that her consciousness and memory were 
restored. Nor did she ask for, or wish for him. The presence 
of each was a burden to the other. Oh, sad and woeful night 
of May— overshadowing the coming summer months with gloom 
and bitter remorse ! 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Still youth prevailed over all. Ellinor got well, as I have said, 
even when she would fain have died. And the afternoon came 
when she left her room. Miss Monro would gladly have made 
a festival of her recovery, and have had her conveyed into the 
unused drawing-room. But Ellinor begged that she might be 
taken into the library — into the schoolroom — anywhere (thought 
she) not looking on the side of the house on the flower-garden, 
which she had felt in all her illness as a ghastly pressure lying 
within sight of those very windows, through which the morning 
sun streamed right upon her bed — like the accusing angel, 
bringing all hidden things to hght. 

And when EUinor was better still, when the bath-chair had 
been sent up for her use, by some kindly old maid, out of 
Hamley, she still petitioned that it might be kept on the lawn 
or town side of the house, away from the flower-garden. 

One day she almost screamed, when, as she was going to the 
front door, she saw Dixon standing ready to draw her, instead 
of Fletcher, the servant who usually went. But she checked all 
demonstration of feeling ; although it was the first time she had 
seen him since he and she and one more had worked their hearts 
out in hard bodily labour. 

He looked so stern and ill ! Cross, too, which she had never 
seen him before. 

As soon as they were out of immediate sight of the windows, 
she asked him to stop, forcing herself to speak to him. 

"Dixon, you look very poorly," she said, trembhng as she 
spoke. 



A DARK night's WORK. "JT, 

"Ay!" said he. "We didn't think much of it at the time, 
did we, Miss Nelly? But it'll be the death on us, I'm thinking. 
It has aged me above a bit. All my fifty years afore were but 
as a forenoon of child's play to that night. Measter, too — I 
could a-bear a good deal, but measter cuts through the stable- 
yard, and past me, wi'out a word, as if I was poison, or a 
stinking foumart. It's that as is worst, Miss Nelly, it is." 

And the poor man brushed some tears from his eyes with the 
back of his withered, furrowed hand. Elhnor caught the in- 
fection, and cried outright, sobbed hke a child, even while she 
held out her little white thin hand to his grasp. For as soon as 
he saw her emotion, he was penitent for what he had said. 

" Don't now — don't," was all he could think of to say. 

" Dixon ! " said she at length, "you must not mind it. You 
must try not to mind it. I see he does not like to be reminded 
of that, even by seeing me. He tries never to be alone with me. 
My poor old Dixon, it has spoilt ray life for me; for I don't 
think he loves me any more." 

She sobbed as if her heart would break ; and now it was 
Dixon's turn to be comforter. 

"Ah, dear, my blessing, he loves you above everything. It's 
only he can't a-bear the sight of us, as is but natural. And if he 
doesn't fancy being alone with you, there's always one as does, and 
that's a comfort at the worst of times. And don't ye fret about 
what I said a minute ago. I were put out because measter all 
but pushed me out of his way this morning, without never a 
word. But I were an old fool for telling ye. And I've really 
forgotten why I told Fletcher I'd drag ye a bit about to-day. Th* 
gardener is beginning for to wonder as you don't want to see th' 
annuals and bedding-out things as you were so particular about 
in May. And I thought I'd just have a word wi' ye, and then if 
you'd let me, we'd go together just once round the flower-garden, 
just to say you've been, you know, and to give them chaps a bit 
of praise. You'll only have to look on the beds, my pretty, and 
it must be done some time. So come along ! " 

He began to put resolutely in the direction of the flower- 
,garden. Ellinor bit her lips to keep in the cry of repugnance 
that rose to them. As Dixon stopped to unlock the door, he 
said — 

" It's not hardness, nothing like it ; I've waited till I heerd you 
were better ; but it's in for a penny in for a pound wi' us all ; 

C 2 



74 A DARK night's WORK. 

and folk may talk ; and bless your little brave heart, you'll stand 
a deal for your father's sake, and so will I, though I do feel it 
above a bit, when he puts out his hand as if to keep me off, and 
I only going to speak to him about Clipper's knees ; though I'll 
own I had wondered many a day when I was to have the good- 
morrow master never missed sin' he were a boy till Well ! 

and now you've seen the beds, and can say they looked mighty 
pretty, and is done all as you wished ; and we're got out again, 
and breathing fresher air than yon sun-baked hole, with its 
smelhng flowers, not half so wholesome to snuff at as good 
stable-dung." 

So the good man chatted on ; not without the purpose of 
giving Ellinor time to recover herself ; and partly also to drown 
his own cares, which lay heavier on his heart than he could say. 
But he thought himself rewarded by Ellinor's thanks, and warm 
pressure of his hard hand as she got out at the front door, and 
bade him good-bye. 

The break to her days of weary monotony was the letters she 
•constantly received from Mr. Corbet. And yet here again lurked 
the sting. He was all astonishment and indignation at Mr. 
Dunster's disappearance, or rather flight, to America. And now 
that she was growing stronger he did not scruple to express 
curiosity respecting the details, never doubting but that she was 
perfectly acquainted with much that he wanted to know ; 
although he had too much delicacy to question her on the point 
which was most important of all in his eyes, namely, how far it 
had affected Mr, Wilkins's worldly prospects ; for the report 
prevalent in Hamley had reached London, that Mr. Dunster had 
made away with, or carried off, trust property to a considerable 
extent, for all which Mr. Wilkins would of course be liable. 

It was hard work for Ralph Corbet to keep from seeking direct 
information on this head from Mr. Ness, or, indeed, from Mr. 
Wilkins himself. But he restrained himself, knowing that in 
August he should be able to make all these inquiries personally. 
Before the end of the long vacation he had hoped to marry 
Ellinor: that was the time which had been planned by them 
when they had met in the early spring before her illness and ali 
this misfortune happened. But now, as he wrote to his father, 
nothing could be definitely arranged until he had paid his visit 
to Hamley, and seen the state of affairs. 

Accordingly one Saturday in August, he came to Ford Bank, 



A DARK night's WORK. 75 

this time as a visitor to Ellinor's home, instead of to his old 
quarters at Mr. Ness's. 

The house was still as if asleep in the full heat of the afternoon 
sun, as Mr. Corbet drove up. The window-blinds were down ; 
the front door wide open, great stands of heliotrope and roses 
and geraniums stood just within the shadow of the hall ; but 
through all the silence his approach seemed to excite no com- 
motion. He thought it strange that he had not been watched for, 
that EUinor did not come running out to meet him, that she 
allowed Fletcher to come and attend to his luggage, and usher 
him into the library just like any common visitor, any morning- 
caller. He stiffened himself up into a moment's indignant 
coldness of manner. But it vanished in an instant when, on the 
door being opened, he saw Ellinor standing holding by the table, 
looking for his appearance with almost panting anxiety. He 
thought of nothing then but her evident weakness, her changed 
looks, for which no account of her illness had prepared him. 
For she was deadly white, lips and all ; and her dark eyes seemed 
unnaturally enlarged, while the caves in which they were set were 
strangely deep and hollow. Her hair, too, had been cut off pretty 
closely ; she did not usually wear a cap, but with some faint idea 
of making herself look better in his eyes, she had put on one this 
day, and the effect was that she seemed to be forty years of 
age ; but one instant after he had come in, her pale face was 
flooded with crimson, and her eyes were full of tears. She had 
hard work to keep herself from going into hysterics, but she 
instinctively knew how much he would hate a scene, and she 
checked herself in time. 

" Oh," she murmured, " I am so glad to see you ; it is such a 
comfort, such an infinite pleasure." And so she went on, cooing 
out words over him, and stroking his hair with her thin fingers ; 
while he rather tried to avert his eyes, he was so much afraid of 
betraying how much he thought her altered. 

But when she came down, dressed for dinner, this sense of 
her change was diminished to him. Her short brown hair had 
- already a little wave, and was ornamented by some black lace ; 
she wore a large black lace shawl — it had been her mother's of 
old — over some delicate-coloured muslin dress ; her face was 
slightly flushed, and had the tints of a wild rose ; her lips kept 
pale and trembhng with involuntary motion, it is true ; and as 
the lovers stood together, hand in hand, by the window, he was 



76 A DARK night's WORK. 

aware of a little convulsive twitching at every noise, even while 
she seemed gazing in tranquil pleasure on the long smooth slope 
of the newly-mown lawn, stretching down to the little brook 
that prattled merrily over the stones on its merry course to 
Hamley town. 

He felt a stronger twitch than ever before ; even while his 
ear, less delicate than hers, could distinguish no peculiar sound. 
About two minutes after Mr. Wilkins entered the room. He 
came up to Mr. Corbet with a warm welcome : some of it real, 
some of it assumed. He talked volubly to him, taking little or 
no notice of EUinor, who dropped into the background, and sat 
down on the sofa by Miss Monro ; for on this day they were all 
to dine together. Ralph Corbet thought that Mr. Wilkins was 
aged ; but no wonder, after all his anxiety of various kinds : 
Mr. Dunster's flight and reported defalcations, EUinor's illness, 
of the seriousness of which her lover was now convinced by her 
appearance. 

He would fain have spoken more to her during the dinner that 
ensued, but Mr. Wilkins absorbed all his attention, talking and 
questioning on subjects that left the ladies out of the conversation 
almost perpetually. Mr. Corbet recognised his host's fine tact^ 
even while his persistence in talking annoyed him. He was quite 
sure that Mr. Wilkins was anxious to spare his daughter any 
exertion beyond that — to which, indeed, she seemed scarcely 
equal — of sitting at the head of the table. And the more her 
father talked — so fine an observer was Mr. Corbet — the more 
silent and depressed EUinor appeared. But by-and-by he ac- 
counted for this inverse ratio of gaiety, as he perceived how 
quickly Mr. Wilkins had his glass replenished. And here» 
again, Mr. Corbet drew his conclusions, from the silent way in 
which, without a word or a sign from his master, Fletcher gave 
him more wine continually — wine that was drained off at once. 

"Six glasses of sherry before dessert," thought Mr. Corbet to 
himself. "Bad habit — no wonder EUinor looks grave." And 
when the gentlemen were left alone, Mr. Wilkins helped himself 
even still more freely ; yet without the slightest effect on the 
clearness and brilliancy of his conversation. He had always 
talked well and racily, that Ralph knew, and in this power he 
now recognised a temptation to which he feared that his future 
fatlier-in-law had succumbed. And yet, while he perceived that 
this gift led into temptation, he coveted it for himself ; for he was 



A DARK night's WORK. ^J 

perfectly aware that this fluency, this happy choice of epithets, 
was the one thing he should fail in when he began to enter into 
the more active career of his profession. But after some time 
spent in listening, and admiring, with this little feeling of envy 
lurking in the background, Mr. Corbet became aware of Mr. 
Wilkins's increasing confusion of ideas, and rather unnatural 
merriment ; and, with a sudden revulsion from admiration to 
disgust, he rose up to go into the library, where Ellinor and 
Miss Monro were sitting. Mr. Wilkins accompanied him, 
laughing and talking somewhat loudly. Was Ellinor aware of 
her father's state? Of that Mr. Corbet could not be sure. She 
looked up with grave sad eyes as they came into the room, but 
with no apparent sensation of surprise, annoyance, or shame. 
When her glance met her father's Mr. Corbet noticed that it 
seemed to sober the latter immediately. He sat down near the 
open window, and did not speak, but sighed heavily from time 
to time. Miss Monro took up a book, in order to leave the 
young people to themselves ; and after a little low murmured 
conversation, Ellinor went upstairs to put on her things for a 
stroll through the meadows by the river-side. 

They were sometimes sauntering along in the lovely summer 
twilight, now resting on some grassy hedgerow bank, or standing 
still, looking at the great barges, with their crimson sails, lazily 
floating down the river, making ripples on the glassy opal sur- 
face of the water. They did not talk very much ; Ellinor seemed 
disinclined for the exertion ; and her lover was thinking over 
Mr. Wilkins's behaviour, with some surprise and distaste of the 
habit so evidently growing upon him. 

They came home, looking serious and tired : yet they could 
not account for their fatigue by the length of their walk, and 
Miss Monro, forgetting Autolycus's song, kept fidgeting about 
Ellinor, and wondering how it was she looked so pale, if she 
had only been as far as the Ash Meadow. To escape from 
this wonder, Ellinor went early to bed. Mr. Wilkins was gone, 
no one knew where, and Ralph and Miss Monro were left to 
> n half-hour's tete-a-tete. He thought he could easily account 
for EUinor's languor, if, indeed, she had perceived as much 
as he had done of her father's state, when they had come into 
the library after dinner. But there were many details which 
he was anxious to hear from a comparatively indifferent person, 
and as soon as he could, he passed on from the conversation 



78 A DARK night's WORK. 

about EUinor's health, to inquiries as to the whole affair of Mr. 
Dunster's disappearance. 

Next to her anxiety about EUinor, Miss Monro liked to dilate 
on the mystery connected with Mr. Dunster's flight ; for that 
was the word she employed without hesitation, as she gave 
him the account of the event universally received and believed 
in by the people of Hamley. How Mr. Dunster had never 
been liked by any one ; how everybody remembered that he 
could never look them straight in the face ; how he always 
seemed to be hiding something that he did not want to have 
known ; how he had drawn a large sum (exact quantity un- 
known) out of the county bank only the day before he left 
Hamley, doubtless in preparation for his escape ; how some 
one had told Mr. Wilkins he had seen a man just like Dunster 
lurking about the docks at Liverpool, about two days after he 
had left his lodgings, but that this some one, being in a hurry, 
had not cared to stop and speak to the man ; how that the 
affairs in the office were discovered to be in such a sad state 
that it was no wonder that Mr. Dunster had absconded— he 
that had been so trusted by poor dear Mr. Wilkins. Money 
gone no one knew how or where. 

"But has he no friends who can explain his proceedings,, 
and account for the missing money, in some way?" asked Mr. 
Corbet. 

"No, none. Mr. Wilkins has written everywhere, right and 
left, I believe. I know he had a letter from Mr. Dunster's 
nearest relation — a tradesman in the City— a cousin, I think, 
and he could give no information in any way. He knew that 
about ten years ago Mr. Dunster had had a great fancy for 
going to America, and had read a great many travels — all just 
what a man would do before going off to a country." 

" Ten years is a long time beforehand," said Mr. Corbet, half 
smiling ; "shows malice prepense with a vengeance." But then, 
turning grave, he said, " Did he leave Hamley in debt?" 

"No ; I never heard of that," said Miss Monro, rather un- 
willingly, for she considered it as a piece of loyalty to the 
Wilkinses, whom Mr. Dunster had injured (as she thought), to 
blacken his character as much as was consistent with any degree 
of truth. 

" It is a strange story," said Mr. Corbet, musing. 

*'Not at all," she replied quickly; "I am sure, if you had 



A DARK night's WORK. 79* 

seen the man, with one or two side-locks of hair combed over 
his baldness, as if he were ashamed of it, and his eyes that 
never looked at you, and his way of eating with his knife when 
he thought he was not observed — oh, and numbers of things ! — 
you would not think it strange." 

Mr. Corbet smiled. 

" I only meant that he seems to have had no extravagant or 
vicious habits which would account for his embezzlement of the 
money that is missing — but, to be sure, money in itself is a 
temptation— only he, being a partner, was in a fair way of 
making it without risk to himself. Has Mr. Wilkins taken 
any steps to have him arrested in America? He might easily 
do that." 

"Oh, my dear Mr. Ralph, you don't know our good Mr. 
Wilkins ! He would rather bear the loss, I am sure, and all 
this trouble and care which it has brought upon him, than be 
revenged upon Mr. Dunster." 

"Revenged! What nonsense! it is simple justice— justice 
to himself and to others — to see that villany is so sufficiently 
punished as to deter others from entering upon such courses. 
But I have little doubt Mr. Wilkins has taken the right steps ; 
he is not the man to sit down quietly under such a loss." 

•' No, indeed ! He had him advertised in the Times and in 
the county papers, and offered a reward of twenty pounds for 
information concerning him." 

" Twenty pounds was too little." 

" So I said. I told Ellinor that I would give twenty pounds 
myself to have him apprehended, and she, poor darling ! fell 
a-trembling, and said, * I would give all I have — I would give- 
my life.' And then she was in such distress, and sobbed so, I 
promised her I would never name it to her again." 

"Poor child — poor child! she wants change of scene. Her 
nerves have been sadly shaken by her illness." 

The next day was Sunday ; Ellinor was to go to church for 
the first time since her illness. Her father had decided it for 
her, or else she would fain have stayed away — she would hardly 
acknowledge why, even to herself, but it seemed to her as if the 
very words and presence of God must there search her and find 
her out. 

She went early, leaning on the arm of her lover, and trying 
to forget the past in the present. They walked slowly along; 



8o A DARK night's WORK. 

between the rows of waving golden corn ripe for the harvest. 
Mr. Corbet gathered blue and scarlet flowers, and made up a 
little rustic nosegay for her. She took and stuck it in her girdle, 
smiling faintly as she did so. 

Hamley Church had, in former days, been collegiate, and was, 
in consequence, much larger and grander than the majority of 
country-town churches. The Ford Bank pew was a square one, 
downstairs ; the Ford Bank servants sat in a front pew in the 
gallery, right before their master. Ellinor was "hardening her 
heart" not to listen, not to hearken to what might disturb the 
wound wliich was just being skinned over, when she caught 
Dixon's face up above. He looked worn, sad, soured, and 
anxious to a miserable degree ; but he was straining eyes and 
ears, heart and soul, to hear the solemn words read from the 
pulpit, as if in them alone he could find help in his strait. 
Ellinor felt rebuked and humbled. 

She was in a tumultuous state of mind when they left church ; 
she wished to do her duty, yet could not ascertain what it was. 
Who was to help her with wisdom and advice? Assuredly he to 
whom her future life was to be trusted. But the case must be 
stated in an impersonal form. No one, not even her husband, 
must ever know anything against her father from her. Ellinor 
was so artless herself, that she had little idea how quickly and 
easily some people can penetrate motives, and combine disjointed 
sentences. She began to speak to Ralph on their slow, saunter- 
ing walk homewards through the quiet meadows. 

" Suppose, Ralph, that a girl was engaged to be married " 

" I can very easily suppose that, with you by me," said he, 
filling up her pause. 

" Oh ! but I don't mean myself at all," replied she, reddening. 
" I am only thinking of what might happen ; and suppose that 
this girl knew of some one belonging to her — we will call it a 
brother — who had done something wrong, that would bring 
disgrace upon the whole family if it was known — though, indeed, 
it might not have been so very wrong as it seemed, and as it 
would look to the world — ought she to break off her engagement 
for fear of involving her lover in the disgrace?" 

" Certainly not, without telling him her reason for doing so." 

" Ah ! but suppose she could not. She might not be at liberty 
to do so." 

" I can't answer supposititious cases. I must have the facts — 



A DARK night's WORK. 8 1 

if facts there are — more plainly before me before I can give an 
opinion. Wlio are you thinking of, Ellinor?" asked he rather 
abruptly. 

"Oh, of no one," she answered in affright. "Why should I 
be thinking of any one? I often try to plan out what I should 
do, or what I ought to do, if such and such a thing happened, 
just as you recollect I used to wonder if I should have presence 
of mind in case of fire." 

" Then, after all, you yourself are the girl who is engaged, 
and who has the imaginary brother who gets into disgrace? " 

"Yes, I suppose so," said she, a little annoyed at having 
betrayed any personal interest in the affair. 

He was silent, meditating. 

"There is nothing wrong in it," said she timidly, " is there?" 

"I think you had better tell me fully out what is in your 
mind," he replied kindly. "Something has happened which 
has suggested these questions. Are you putting yourself in the 
place of any one about whom you have been hearing lately ? I 
know you used to do so formerly, when you were a little girl." 

"No; it was a very foolish question of mine, and I ought 
not to have said anything about it. See ! here is Mr. Ness over- 
taking us." 

The clergyman joined them on the broad walk that ran by the 
river-side, and the talk became general. It was a reHef to Elli- 
nor, who had not attained her end, but who had gone far towards 
betraying something of her own individual interest in the ques- 
tion she had asked. Ralph had been more struck even by her 
manner than her words. He was sure that something lurked 
behind, and had an idea of his own that it was connected with 
Dunster's disappearance. But he was glad that Mr. Ness's 
joining them gave him leisure to consider a little. 

The end of his reflections was, that the next day, Monday, he 
went into the town, and artfully learnt all he could hear about 
Mr. Dunster's character and mode of going on ; and with still 
more skill he extracted the popular opinion as to the embarrassed 
nature of Mr. Wilkins's affairs — embarrassment which was gene- 
rally attributed to Dunster's disappearance with a good large sum 
belonging to the firm in his possession. But Mr. Corbet thought 
otherwise ; he had accustomed himself to seek out the baser 
motives for men's conduct, and to call the result of these re- 
searches wisdom. He imagined that Dunster had been well paid 



82 A DARK night's WORK. 

by Mr. Wilkins for his disappearance, which was an easy way of 
accounting for the derangement of accounts and loss of money 
that arose, in fact, from Mr. Wiikins's extravagance of habits and 
growing intemperance. 

On the Monday afternoon he said to Ellinor, " Mr. Ness 
interrupted us yesterday in a very interesting conversation. Do 
you remember, love?" 

Ellinor reddened, and kept her Iiead still more intently bent 
over a sketch she was making. 

"Yes ; I recollect." 

"I have been thinking about it. I still think she ought to 
tell her lover that such disgrace hung over him — I mean, over 
the family with whom he was going to connect himself. Of 
course, the only effect would be to make him stand by her still 
more for her frankness." 

" Oh ! but, Ralph, it might perhaps be something she ought 
not to tell, whatever came of her silence." 

" Of course there might be all sorts of cases. Unless I knew 
more, I could not pretend to judge." 

This was said rather more coolly. It had the desired effect. 
EUinor laid down her brush, and covered her face with her hand. 
After a pause, she turned towards him and said — 

"I will tell you this; and more you mast not ask me. I 
know you are as safe as can be. I am the girl, you are the 
lover, and possible shame hangs over my father, if something—^ 
oh, so dreadful" (here she blanched), "but not so very much 
his fault, is ever found out." 

Though this was nothing more than he expected, though 
Ralph thought that he was aware what the dreadful something 
might be, yet, when it was acknowledged in words his heart 
contracted, and for a moment he forgot the intent, wistful, 
beautiful face, creeping close to his to read his expression aright. 
But after that his presence of mind came in aid. He took her 
in his arms and kissed her ; murmuring fond words of sympathy, 
and promises of faith, nay, even of greater love than before, 
since greater need she might have of that love. But somehow 
he was glad when the dressing-bell rang, and in the solitude of 
his own room he could reflect on what he had heard ; for the 
intelligence had been a great shock to him, although he had 
fancied that his morning's inquiries had prepared him for it. 



A DARK night's WORK. 8$: 



CHAPTER IX. 

Ralph Corbet found it a very difficult thing to keep down his- 
curiosity during the next few days. It was a miserable thing to 
have EUinor's unspoken secret severing them like a phantom. 
But he had given her his word that he would make no further 
inquiries from her. Indeed, he thought he could well enough 
make out the outline of past events ; still, there was too much 
left to conjecture for his mind not to be always busy on the sub- 
ject. He felt inclined to probe Mr. Wilkins in their after-dinner 
conversation, in which his host was frank and lax enough on 
many subjects. But once touch on the name of Dunster and 
Mr. Wilkins sank into a kind of suspicious depression of spirits ; 
talking little, and with evident caution ; and from time to time 
shooting furtive glances at his interlocutor's face. Ellinor was 
resolutely impervious to any attempts of his to bring his conver- 
sation with her back to the subject which more and more 
engrossed Ralph Corbet's mind. She had done her duty, as 
she understood it ; and had received assurances which she was 
only too glad to beheve fondly with all the tender faith of her 
heart. Whatever came to pass, Ralph's love would still be 
hers ; nor was he unwarned of what might come to pass in some 
dread future day. So she shut lier eyes to what might be in 
store for her (and, after all, the chances were immeasurably 
in her favour) ; and she bent herself with her whole strength 
into enjoying the present. Day by day Mr. Corbet's spirits 
flagged. He was, however, so generally uniform in the tenor 
of his talk — never very merry, and always avoiding any subject 
that might call out deep feeling either on his own or any one 
else's part, that few people were aware of his changes of mood. 
EUinor felt them, though she would not acknowledge them : it 
was bringing her too much face to face with the great terror 
of her life. 

One morning he announced the fact of his brother's approach- 
ing marriage ; the wedding was hastened on account of some 
impending event in the duke's family; and the home letter he 
had received that day was to bid his presence at Stokely Castle, 
and also to desire him to be at home by a certain time not very 
distant, in order to look over the requisite legal papers, and to^ 



84 A DARK night's WORK. 

give his assent to some of them. He gave many reasons why 
this unlooked-for departure of his was absolutely necessary ; but 
no one doubted it. He need not have alleged such reiterated 
excuses. The truth was, he was restrained and uncomfort- 
able at Ford Bank ever since Ellinor's confidence. He could 
not rightly calculate on the most desirable course for his own 
interests, while his love for her was constantly being renewed 
by her sweet presence. Away from her, he could judge more 
wisely. Nor did he allege any false reasons for his departure ; 
but the sense of relief to himself was so great at his recall home, 
•that he was afraid of having it perceived by others ; and so took 
the very way which, if others had been as penetrating as him- 
self, would have betrayed him. 

Mr. Wilkins, too, had begun to feel the restraint of Ralph's 
grave watchful presence. EUinor was not strong enough to be 
married ; nor was the promised money forthcoming if she had 
been. And to have a fellow dawdling about the house all day, 
sauntering into the flower-garden, peering about everywhere, 
and having a kind of right to put all manner of unexpected 
•questions, was anything but agreeable. It was only Ellinor that 
clung to his presence — clung as though some shadow of what 
might happen before they met again had fallen on her spirit. 
As soon as he had left the house she flew up to a spare bedroom 
window, to watch for the last glimpse of the fly which was taking 
him into the town. And then she kissed the part of the pane 
on which his figure, waving an arm cut of the carriage window, 
had last appeared ; and went down slowly to gather together all 
■the things he had last touched — the pen he had mended, the 
flower he had played with, and to lock them up in the little 
quaint cabinet that had held her treasures since she was a tiny 
child. 

Miss Monro was, perhaps, very wise in proposing the trans- 
lation of a difficult part of Dante for a distraction to Ellinor. 
The girl went meekly, if reluctantly, to the task set her by her 
good governess, and by-and-by her mind became braced by the 
exertion. 

Ralph's people were not very slow in discovering that some- 
thing had not gone on quite smoothly with him at Ford Bank. 
They knew his ways and looks with family intuition, and could 
easily be certain thus far. But not even his mother's skilfulest 
wiles, nor his favourite sister's coaxing, could obtain a word or 



A DARK night's WORK. 8$ 

a hint ; and when his father, the squire, who had heard the 
opinions of the female part of the family on this head, began, in 
his honest blustering way, in their tete-d-tetes after dinner, to- 
hope that Ralph was thinking better than to run his head inta , 
that confounded Hamley attorney's noose, Ralph gravely required 
Mr. Corbet to explain his meaning, which he professed not to 
understand so worded. And when the squire had, with much 
perplexity, put it into the plain terms of hoping that his son was 
thinking of breaking off his engagement to Miss Wilkins, Ralph 
coolly asked him if he was aware that, in that case, he should 
lose all title to being a man of honour, and might have an action- 
brought against him for breach of promise? 

Yet not the less for all this was the idea in his mind as a 
future possibility. 

Before very long the Corbet family moved en masse to Stokely 
Castle for the wedding. Of course, Ralph associated on equal 
terms with the magnates of the county, who were the employers 
of EUinor's father, and spoke of him always as "Wilkins," just 
as they spoke of the butler as " Simmons." Here, too, among 
a class of men high above local gossip, and thus unaware of his 
engagement, he learnt the popular opinion respecting his future 
father-in-law ; an opinion not entirely respectful, though inter- 
mingled with a good deal of personal liking. " Poor Wilkins,'* 
as they called him, "was sadly extravagant for a man in his 
position ,- had no right to spend money, and act as if he were a 
man of independent fortune." His habits of Hfe were criticised ; 
and pity, not free from blame, was bestowed upon him for the 
losses he had sustained from his late clerk's disappearance and 
defalcation. But what could be expected if a man did not 
choose to attend to his own business? 

The wedding went by, as grand weddings do, without let or 
hindrance, according to the approved pattern. A Cabinet 
minister honoured it with his presence, and, being a distant 
relation of the Brabants, remained for a few days after the grand 
occasion. During this time he became rather intimate with 
Ralph Corbet ; many of their tastes were in common. Ralph 
took a great interest in the manner of working out political ques- 
tions ; in the balance and state of parties ; and had the right 
appreciation of the exact qualities on which the minister piqued 
himself. In return, the latter was always on the look-out for 
promising young men, who, either by their capability of speech- 



S6 A DARK night's WORK. 

making or article-writing, might advance the views of his party. 
Recognising the powers he most valued in Ralph, he spared no 
pains to attach him to his own political set. When they sepa- 
rated, it was with the full understanding that they were to see a 
good deal of each other in London. 

The holiday Ralph allowed himself was passing rapidly away ; 
but, before he returned to his chambers and his hard work, he 
had promised to spend a few more days with EUinor ; and it 
suited him to go straight from the duke s to Ford Bank. He 
left the Castle soon after breakfast — the luxurious, elegant break- 
fast, served by domestics who performed their work with the 
accuracy and perfection of machines. He arrived at Ford Bank 
before the man-servant had quite finished the dirtier part of his 
morning's work, and he came to the glass-door in his striped 
cotton jacket, a little soiled, and rolling up his working apron. 
Ellinor was not yet strong enough to get up and go out and 
gather flowers for the rooms, so those left from yesterday were 
rather faded ; in short, the contrast from entire completeness 
and exquisite freshness of arrangement struck forcibly upon 
Ralph's perceptions, which were critical rather than appreci- 
ative ; and, as his affections were always subdued to his intellect, 
Ellinor's lovely face and graceful figure flying to meet him did 
not gain his full approval, because her hair was dressed in an 
old-fashioned way, her waist was either too long or too short, 
her sleeves too full or too tight for the standard of fashion to 
which his eye had been accustomed while scanning the brides- 
maids and various highborn ladies at Stokely Castle. 

But, as he had always piqued himself upon being able to put 
on one side all superficial worldliness in his chase after power, 
it did not do for him to shrink from seeing and faeing the incom- 
pleteness of moderate means. Only marriage upon moderate 
means was gradually becoming more distasteful to him. 

Nor did his subsequent intercourse with Lord Bolton, the 
Cabinet minister before mentioned, tend to reconcile him to 
early matrimony. At Lord Bolton's house he met polished and 
intellectual society, and all that smoothness in ministering to the 
lower wants in eating and drinking which seems to provide that 
the right thing shall always be at the right place at the right 
time, so that the want of it shall never impede for an instant the 
feast of wit or reason ; while, if he went to the houses of his 
friends, men of the same college and standing as himself, who 



A DARK night's WORK. 8/ 

had been seduced into early marriages, he was uncomfortably 
aware of numerous inconsistencies and hitches in their manages. 
Besides, the idea of the possible disgrace that might befall the 
family with which he thought of allying himself haunted him 
with the tenacity and also with the exaggeration of a nightmare, 
whenever he had overworked himself in his search after available 
and profitable knowledge, or had a fit of indigestion after the 
exquisite dinners he was learning so well to appreciate. 

Christmas was, of course, to be devoted to his own family ; it 
was an unavoidable necessity, as he told Ellinor, while, in reality, 
he was beginning to find absence from his betrothed something 
of a relief. Yet the wranglings and folly of his home, even 
blessed by the presence of a Lady Maria, made him look forward 
to Easter at Ford Bank with something of the old pleasure. 

Ellinor, with the fine tact which love gives, had discovered his 
annoyance at various little incongruities in the household at the 
time of his second visit in the previous autumn, and had laboured 
to make all as perfect as she could before his return. But she 
had much to struggle against. For the first time in her life there 
was a great want of ready money ; she could scarcely obtain the 
servants' wages ; and the bill for the spring seeds was a heavy 
weight on her conscience. For Miss Monro's methodical habits 
had taught her pupil great exactitude as to all money matters. 

Then her father's temper had become very uncertain. He 
avoided being alone with her whenever he possibly could ; and 
the consciousness of this, and of the terrible mutual secret which 
was the cause of this estrangement, were the reasons why Ellinor 
never recovered her pretty youthful bloom after her illness. Of 
course it was to this that the outside world attributed her changed 
appearance. They would shake their heads and say, "Ah, 
poor Miss Wilkins ! What a lovely creature she was before 
that fever ! " 

But youth is youth, and will assert itself in a certain elasticity 
of body and spirits ; and at times Ellinor forgot that fearful 
night for several hours together. Even whei; her father's averted 
eye brought it all once more before her, she had learnt to form 
excuses and paUiations, and to regard Mr. Dunster's death as 
only the consequence of an unfortunate accident. But she tried 
to put the miserable remembrance entirely out of her mind ; to 
go on from day to day thinking only of the day, and how to 
arrange it so as to cause the least irritation to her father. She 



88 A DARK night's WORK. 

would so gladly have spoken to him on the one subject which 
overshadowed all their intercourse ; she fancied that by speaking 
she might have been able to banish the phantom, or reduce its 
terror to what she believed to be the due proportion. But her 
father was evidently determined to show that he was never more 
to be spoken to on that subject ; and all she could do was to 
follow his. lead on the rare occasions that they fell into some- 
thing like the old confidential intercourse. As yet, to her, he 
had never given way to anger ; but before her he had often 
spoken in a manner which both pained and terrified her. Some- 
times his eye in the midst of his passion caught on her face of 
affright and dismay, and then he would stop, and make such an 
effort to control himself as sometimes ended in tears. Ellinor 
did not understand that both these phases were owing to his 
increasing habit of drinking more than he ought to have done. 
She set them down as the direct effects of a sorely burdened 
conscience ; and strove more and more to plan for his daily life 
at home, how it should go on with oiled wheels, neither a jerk 
nor a jar. It was no wonder she looked wistful, and careworn, 
and old. Miss Monro was her great comfort ; the total uncon- 
sciousness on that lady's part of anything below the surf^ice, 
and yet her full and dehcate recognition of all the little daily 
cares and trials, made her sympathy most valuable to Ellinor, 
while there was no need to fear that it would ever give Miss 
Monro that power of seeing into the heart of things which it 
frequently confers upon imaginative people, who are deeply 
attached to some one in sorrow. 

There was a strong bond between Ellinor and Dixon, 
although they scarcely ever exchanged a word save on the most 
commonplace subjects ; but their silence was based on different 
feelings from that which separated Ellinor from her father. 
Ellinor and Dixon could not speak freely, because their hearts 
were full of pity for the faulty man whom they both loved so 
well, and tried so hard to respect. 

This was the state of the household to which Ralph Corbet 
came down at Easter. He might have been known in London 
as a brilliant diner-out by this time ; but he could not afford to 
throw his life away in fireworks ; he calculated his forces, and 
condensed their power as much as might be, only visiting where 
he was likely to meet men who could help in his future career. 
He had been invited to spend the Easter vacation at a certain 



A DARK night's WORK. 89 

country house which would be full of such human stepping- 
stones ; and he declined in order to keep his word to Ellinor, 
and go to Ford Bank. But he could not help looking upon 
himself a little in the light of a martyr to duty ; and perhaps 
this view of his own merits made him chafe under his future 
father-in-law's irritabiUty of manner, which now showed itself 
•even to him. He found himself distinctly regretting that he 
had suffered himself to be engaged so early in hfe ; and having 
become conscious of the temptation and not having repelled it 
at once, of course it returned and returned, and gradually 
obtained the mastery over him. What was to be gained by 
keeping to his engagement with Ellinor? He should have a 
■dehcate wife to look after, and even more than the common 
additional expenses of married life. He should have a father- 
in-law whose character at best had had only a local and 
provincial respectability, which it was now daily losing by 
habits which were both sensual and vulgarising ; a man, too, 
who was strangely changing from joyous geniality into moody 
surliness. Besides, he doubted if, in the evident change in the 
prosperity of the family, the fortune to be paid down on the 
occasion of his marriage to Ellinor could be forthcoming. 
And above all, and around all, there- hovered the shadow of 
some unrevealed disgrace, which might come to hght at any time 
and involve him in it. He thought he had pretty well ascer- 
tained the nature of this possible shame, and had little doubt it 
would turn out to be that Dunster's disappearance, to America 
or elsewhere, had been an arranged plan with Mr. Wilkins. 
Although Mr. Ralph Corbet was capable of suspecting him of 
this mean crime (so far removed from the impulsive commission 
of the past sin which was dragging him daily lower and lower 
down), it was of a kind that was pecuHarly distasteful to the 
acute lawyer, who foresaw how such base conduct would taint 
all whose names were ever mentioned, even by chance, in con- 
nection with it. He used to lie miserably tossing on his sleepless 
bed, turning over these things in the night season. He was tor- 
^mented by all these thoughts ; he would bitterly regret the past 
events that connected him with Ellinor, from the day when he 
first came to read with Mr. Ness up to the present time. But 
when he came down in the morning, and saw the faded Ellinor 
flash into momentary beauty at his entrance into the dining- 
room, and when she blushingly drew near with the one single 



90 A DARK night's WORK. 

flower freshly gathered, which it had been her custom to place in 
his buttonhole when he came down to breakfast, he felt as if his 
better self was stronger than temptation, and as if he must be 
an honest man and honourable lover, even against his wish. 

As the day wore on the temptation gathered strength. Mr. 
Wilkins came down, and while he was on the scene EUinor 
seemed always engrossed by her father, who apparently cared 
little enough for all her attentions. Then there was a com- 
plaining of the food, which did not suit the sickly palate of a 
man who had drunk hard the night before ; and possibly these 
complaints were extended to the servants, and their incomplete- 
ness or incapacity was thus brought prominently before the eyes 
of Ralph, who would have preferred to eat a dry crust in silence 
or to have gone without breakfast altogether, if he could have 
had intellectual conversation of some high order, to having the 
greatest dainties with the knowledge of the care required in 
their preparation thus coarsely discussed before him. By the 
time such breakfasts were finished, EUinor looked thirty, and 
her spirits were gone for the day. It had become difficult 
for Ralph to contract his mind to her small domestic interests, 
and she had little else to talk to him about, now that he re- 
sponded but curtly to all her questions about himself, and was 
weary of professing a love which he was ceasing to feel, in all 
the passionate nothings which usually make up so much of 
lovers' talk. The books she had been reading were old classics 
whose place in literature no longer admitted of keen discussion ; 
the poor whom she cared for were all very well in their way ; 
and, if they could have been brought in to illustrate a theory, 
hearing about them might have been of some use ; but, as it 
was, it was simply tiresome to hear day after day of Betty 
Palmer's rheumatism and Mrs. Kay's baby's fits. There was 
no talking politics with her, because she was so ignorant that 
she always agreed with everything he said. 

He even grew to find luncheon and Miss Monro not unpleasant 
varieties to his monotonous tete-a-tetes. Then came the walk, 
generally to the town to fetch Mr. Wilkins from his office ; and 
once or twice it was pretty evident how he had been employing 
his hours. One day in particular his walk was so unsteady and 
his speech so thick, that Ralph could only wonder how it was 
that EUinor did not perceive the cause ; but she was too openly 
anxious about the headache of which her father complained to. 



A DARK night's WORK. 9I 

have been at all aware of the, previous self-indulgence which 
must have brought it on. This very afternoon, as ill-luck would 
have it, the Duke of Hinton and a gentleman whom Ralph had 
met in town at Lord Bolton's rode by, and recognised him ; saw 
Ralph supporting a tipsy man with such quiet friendly interest 
as must show all passers-by that they were previous friends. 
Mr. Corbet chafed and fumed inwardly all the way home after 
this unfortunate occurrence ; he was in a thoroughly evil temper 
before they reached Ford Bank, but he had too much self- 
command to let this be very apparent. He turned into the 
shrubbery paths, leaving Ellinor to take her father into the 
quietness of his own room, there to lie down and shake off his 
headache. 

Ralph walked along, ruminating in gloomy mood as to what 
was to be done ; how he could best extricate himself from the 
miserable relation in which he had placed himself by giving way 
to impulse. Almost before he was aware, a little hand stole 
within his folded arms, and Ellinor's sweet sad eyes looked 
into his. 

" I have put papa down for an hour's rest before dinner," said 
she. " His head seems to ache terribly." 

Ralph was silent and unsympathising, trying to nerve himself 
up to be disagreeable, but finding it difficult in the face of such 
sweet trust. 

" Do you remember our conversation last autumn, Ellinor?" 
he began at length. 

Her head sank. They were near a garden-seat, and she 
quietly sat down, without speaking. 

"About some disgrace which you then fancied hung over 
you ? " No answer. ' ' Does it still hang over you ? " 

" Yes ! " she whispered, with a heavy sigh. 

" And your father knows this, of course?" 

"Yes ! " again in the same tone ; and then silence. 

"I think it is doing him harm," at length Ralph went on 
decidedly. 
, " I am afraid it is," she said, in a low tone. 

"I wish you would tell me what it is," he said, a little im- 
patiently. " I might be able to help you about it," 

" No ! you could not," replied Ellinor. "I was sorry to my 
very heart to tell you what I did ; I did not want help ; all that 
is past. But I wanted to know if you thought that a person 



92 A DARK night's WORK. 

situated as I was, was justified in marrying any one ignorant of 
what might happen, what I do hope and trust never will." 

" But if I don't know what you are alluding to in this 
mysterious way, you must see — don't you see, love ? — I am in the 
position of the ignorant man whom I think you said you could 
not feel it right to marry. Why don't you tell me straight out 
what it is?" He could not help his irritation betraying itself in 
his tones and manner of speaking. She bent a little forward, and 
looked full into his face, as though to pierce to the very heart's 
truth of him. Then she said, as quietly as she had ever spoken 
in her life — 

" You wish to break off our engagement ? " 

He reddened and grew indignant in a moment. "What 
nonsense ! Just because I ask a question and make a remark ! 
I think your illness must have made you fanciful, EUinor. 
Surely nothing I said deserves such an interpretation. On the 
contrary, have I not shown the sincerity and depth of my affection 
to you by clinging to you through — through everything? " 

He was going to say " through the wearying opposition of my 
family," but he stopped short, for he knew that the very fact of 
his mother's opposition had only made him the more determined 
to have his own way in the first instance ; and even now he did 
not intend to let out, what he had concealed up to this time, 
that his friends all regretted his imprudent engagement. 

Ellinor sat silently gazing out upon the meadows, but seeing 
nothing. Then she put her hand into his. " I quite trust you, 
Ralph. I was wrong to doubt. I am afraid I have grown 
fanciful and silly." 

He was rather put to it for the right words, for she had 
precisely divined the dim thought that had overshadowed his 
mind when she had looked so intently at him. But he caressed 
her, and reassured her with fond w^ords, as incoherent as lovers' 
words generally are. 

By-and-by they sauntered homewards. When they reached 
the house, Ellinor left him, and flew up to see how her father 
was. When Ralph went into his own room he was vexed with 
himself, both for what he had said and for what he had not said. 
His mental look-out was not satisfactory. 

Neither he nor Mr. Wilkins was in good humour with the 
world in general at dinner-time, and it needs little in such 
cases to condense and turn the lowering tempers into one 



A DARK night's WORK. 95 

particular direction. As long as Ellinor and Miss Monra 
stayed in the dining-room, a sort of moody peace had been 
kept up, the ladies talking incessantly to each other about the 
trivial nothings of their daily life, with an instinctive conscious- 
ness that if they did not chatter on, something would be said by 
one of the gentlemen which would be distasteful tothe other. 

As soon as Ralph had shut the door behind them, Mr. Wilkins 
went to the sideboard, and took out a bottle which had not 
previously made its appearance. 

"Have a httle cognac?" he asked, with an assumption of 
carelessness, as he poured out a wine-glassful. " It's a capital 
thing for the headache ; and this nasty lowering weather has 
given me a racking headache all day." 

"I am sorry for it," said Ralph, "for I wanted particularly 
to speak to you about business — about my marriage, in fact." 

" Well ! speak away, I'm as clear-headed as any man, if that's 
what you mean." 

Ralph bowed, a little contemptuously. 

"What I wanted to say was, that I am anxious to have 
all things arranged for my marriage in August. Ellinor is 
so much better now ; in fact, so strong, that I think we may 
reckon upon her standing the change to a London life pretty 
well." 

Mr. Wilkins stared at him rather blankly, but did not 
immediately speak. 

"Of course I may have the deeds drawn up in which, as 
by previous arrangement, you advance a certain portion of 
Ellinor's fortune for the purposes therein to be assigned ; as 
we settled last year when I hoped to have been married in 
August?" 

A thought flitted through Mr. Wilkins's confused brain that 
he should find it impossible to produce the thousands required 
without having recourse to the money-lenders, who were already 
making difficulties, and charging him usurious interest for the 
advances they had lately made ; and he unwisely tried to obtain 
a diminution in the sum he had originally proposed to give 
Ellinor. "Unwisely," because he might have read Ralph's 
Character better than to suppose he would easily consent to any 
diminution without good and sufficient reason being given ; or 
without some promise of compensating advantages in the future 
for the present sacrifice asked from him. But perhaps Mr, 



94 A DARK night's WORK. 

Wilklns, dulled as he was by wine, thought he could allege a 
good and sufficient reason, for he said — 

" You must not be hard upon me, Ralph. That promise was 
made before — before I exactly knew the state of my affairs ! " 

"Before Dunster's disappearance, in fact," said Mr. Corbet, 
fixing his steady, penetrating eyes on Mr. Wilkins's countenance. 

"Yes — exactly — before Dunster's" mumbled out Mr, 

Wilkins, red and confused, and not finishing his sentence. 

"By the way," said Ralph (for with careful carelessness of 
manner he thought he could extract something of the real nature 
of the impending disgrace from his companion, in the state in 
which he theii was ; and if he only knew more about this danger 
he could guard against it ; guard others ; perhaps himself) — 
" By the way, have you ever heard anything of Dunster since he 
went off to —America, isn't it thought?" 

He was startled beyond his power of self-control by the in- 
stantaneous change in Mr. Wilkins which his question produced. 
Both started up ; Mr. Wilkins white, shaking, and trying to say 
something, but unable to form a sensible sentence. 

" Good God ! sir, what is the matter?" said Ralph, alarmed 
at these signs of physical suffering. 

Mr. Wilkins sat down, and repelled his nearer approach with- 
out speaking. 

" It is nothing, only this headache which shoots through me 
at times. Don't look at me, sir, in that way. It is very un- 
pleasant to find another man's eyes perpetually fixed upon you. " 

"I beg your pardon," said Ralph coldly; his short-lived 
sympathy, thus repulsed, giving way to his curiosity. But he 
waited for a minute or two without daring to renew the con- 
versation at the point where they had stopped : whether 
interrupted by bodily or mental discomfort on the part of his 
companion he was not quite sure. While he hesitated how to 
begin again on the subject, Mr. Wilkins pulled the bottle of 
brandy to himself and filled his glass again, tossing off the spirit 
as if it had been water. Then he tried to look Mr. Corbet full 
in the face, with a stare as pertinacious as he could make it, but 
very different from the keen observant gaze which was trying to 
read him through. 

"What were we talking about?" said Ralph at length, with 
the most natural air in the world, just as if he had really been 
forgetful of some half-discussed subject of interest. 



A DARK night's WORK. 95 

"Of what you'd a d — — d deal better hold your tongue 
about," growled out Mr. Wilkins, in a surly thick voice. 

"Sir!" said Ralph, starting to his feet with real passion at 
being so addressed by "Wilkins the attorney." 

" Yes," continued the latter, " I'll manage my own affairs, and 
allow of no meddling and no questioning. I said so once before, 
and I was not minded, and bad came of it ; and now I say it 
again. And if you're to come here and put impertinent ques- 
tions, and stare at me as you've been doing this half-hour past, 
why, the sooner you leave this house the better ! " 

Ralph half turned to take him at his word, and go at once ; 
but then he "gave Ellinor another chance," as he worded it 
in bis thoughts ; but it was in no spirit of conciUation that he 
said — 

" You've taken too much of that stuff, sir. You don't know 
what you're saying. If you did, I should leave your house at 
once, never to return." 

" You think so, do you?" said Mr. Wilkins, trying to stand 
up, and look dignified and sober. " I say, sir, that if you ever 
venture again to talk and look as you have done to-night, why, 
sir, I will ring the bell and have you shown the door by my 
servants. So now you're warned, my fine fellow ! " He sat 
down, laughing a foolish tipsy laugh of triumph. In another 
minute his arm was held firmly but gently by Ralph. 

"Listen, Mr. Wilkins," he said, in a low hoarse voice. 
' ' You shall never have to say to me twice what you have said 
to-night. Henceforward we are as strangers to each other. As 
to Ellinor" — his tones softened a little, and he sighed in spite of 
himself — " I do not think we should have been happy. I believe 
our engagement was formed when we were too young to know 
our own minds, but I would have done my duty and kept to 
my word ; but you, sir, have yourself severed the connection 
between us by your insolence to-night. I, to be turned out of 
your house by your servants ! — I, a Corbet of Westley, who 
would not submit to such threats from a peer of the realm, let 
him be ever so drunk ! " He was out of the room, almost out 
of the house, before he had spoken the last words. 

Mr. Wilkins sat still, first fiercely angry, then astonished, and 
lastly dismayed into sobriety. "Corbet, Corbet! Ralph!" he 
called in vain ; then he got up and went to the door, opened it, 
looked into the fully-lighted hall ; all was so quiet there that he 



96 A DARK night's WORK. 

could hear the quiet voices of the women in the drawing-room 
talking together. He thought for a moment, went to the hat- 
stand, and missed Ralph's low-crowned straw hat. 

Then he sat down once more in the dining-room, and 
endeavoured to make out exactly what had passed ; but he 
could not believe that Mr. Corbet had come to any enduring 
or final resolution to break off his engagement, and he had 
almost reasoned himself back into his former state of indigna- 
tion at impertinence and injury, when Ellinor came in, pale, 
hurried, and anxious. 

"Papa! what does this mean?" said she, putting an open 
note into his hand. He took up his glasses, but his hand shook 
so that he could hardly read. The note was from the Parson- 
age, to Ellinor ; only three lines sent by Mr. Ness's servant, 
who had come to fetch Mr. Corbet's things. He had written 
three lines with some consideration for EUinor, even when he 
was in his first flush of anger against her father, and it must be 
confessed of relief at his own freedom, thus brought about by 
the act of another, and not of his own working out, which partly 
saved his conscience. The note ran thus : 

"Dear Ellinor, — Words have passed between your father 
and me which have obliged me to leave his house, I fear, never 
to return to it. I will write more fully to-morrow. But do not 
grieve too much, for I am not, and never have been, good 
enough for you. God bless you, my dearest Nelly, though I 
call you so for the last time. — R. C." 

"Papa, what is it?" Ellinor cried, clasping her hands to- 
gether, as her father sat silent, vacantly gazing into the fire, 
after finishing the note. 

" I don't know ! " said he, looking up at her piteously ; " it's 
the world, I think. Everything goes wrong with me and mine : 
it went wrong before that night — so it can't be that, can it, 
Ellinor?" 

"Oh, papa!" said she, kneeling down by him, her face 
hidden on his breast. 

He put one arm languidly round her. "I used to read of 
Orestes and the Furies at Eton when I was a boy, and I thought 
it was all a heathen fiction. Poor little motherless girl ! " said 
he, laying his other hand on her head, with the caressing gesture 



A DARK night's WORK. 97 

he had been accustomed to use when she had been a little child. 
"Did you love him so very dearly, Nelly?" he whispered, his 
cheek against her ; "for somehow of late he has not seemed to 
me good enough for thee. He has got an inkling that some- 
thing has gone wrong, and he was very inquisitive — I may say 
he questioned me in a relentless kind of way." 

"Oh, papa, it was my doing, I'm afraid. I said something 
long ago about possible disgrace." 

He pushed her away ; he stood up, and looked at her with 
the eyes dilated, half in fear, half in fierceness, of an animal 
at bay ; he did not heed that his abrupt movement had almost 
thrown her prostrate on the ground. 

"You, Ellinor ! You — you " 

" Oh, darling father, listen ! " said she, creeping to his knees, 
and clasping them with her hands. " I said it, as if it were a 
possible case, of some one else — last August — but he immedi- 
ately applied it, and asked me if it was over me the disgrace, 
or shame — I forget the words we used — hung ; and what could 
I say?" 

"Anything — anything to put him off the scent. God help 
me, I am a lost man, betrayed by my child 1 " 

Ellinor let go his knees, and covered her face. Every one 
stabbed at that poor heart. In a minute or so her father spoke 
again. 

"I don't mean what I say. I often don't mean it now. 
Ellinor, you must forgive me, my child!" He stooped, and 
lifted her up, and sat down, taking her on his knee, and 
smoothing her hair off her hot forehead. " Remember, child, 
how very miserable I am, and have forgiveness for me. He 
had none, and yet he must have seen I had been drinking." 

" Drinking, papa ! " said Ellinor, raising her head, and looking 
at him with sorrowful surprise. 

"Yes. I drink now to try and forget," said he, blushing and 
confused. 

"Oh, how miserable we are!" cried EUinor, bursting into 
tears — "how very miserable! It seems almost as if God had 
forgotten to comfort us ! " 

" Hush ! hush ! " said he. "Your mother said once she did 
so pray that you might grow up religious ; you must be religious, 
child, because she prayed for it so often. Poor Lettice, how glad 
I am that you are dead ! " Here he began to cry like a child. 



98 A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 

Ellinor comforted him with kisses rather than words. He pushed 
her away, after a while, and said sharply: "How much does 
he know ? I must make sure of that. How much did you tell 
him, Ellinor?" 

"Nothing — nothing, indeed, papa, but what I told you just 
now ! " 

" Tell it me again — the exact words 1 " 

"I will, as well as I can ; but it was last August. I only 
said, ' Was it right for a woman to marry, knowing that dis- 
grace hung over her, and keeping her lover in ignorance of it ? ' " 

" That was all, you are sure?" 

" Yes. He immediately applied the case to me — to ourselves." 

"And he never wanted to know what was the nature of the 
threatened disgrace ? " 

"Yes, he did." 
■ " And you told him ? " 

" No, not a word more. He referred to the subject again to- 
day, in the shrubbery ; but I told him nothing more. You quite 
believe me, don't you, papa?" 

He pressed her to him, but did not speak. Then he took the 
note up again, and read it with as much care and attention as 
he could collect in his agitated state of mind. 

"Nelly," said he at length, "he says true; he is not good 
enough for thee. He shrinks from the thought of the disgrace. 
Thou must stand alone, and bear the sins of thy father." 

He shook so much as he said this, that Ellinor had to put any 
suffering of her own on one side, and try to confine her thoughts 
to the necessity of getting her father immediately up to bed. 
She sat by him till he went to sleep, and she could leave him, 
and go to her own room, to forgetfulness and rest, if she could 
find those priceless blessings. 



CHAPTER X. 

Mr. Corbet was so well known at the Parsonage by the two 
old servants, that he had no difficulty, on reaching it, after his 
departure from Ford Bank, in having the spare bedchamber 
made ready for him, late as it was, and in the absence of the 
master, who had taken a httle holiday, now that Lent and 



A DARK night's WORK. 99 

Easter were over, for the purpose of fishing. While his room 
was getting ready, Ralph sent for his clothes, and by the same 
messenger he despatched the little note to EUinor. But there 
was the letter he had promised her in it still to be written ; 
and it was almost his night's employment to say enough, yet 
not too much ; for, as he expressed it to himself, he was half 
way over the stream, and it would be folly to turn back, for 
he had given nearly as much pain both to himself and Ellinor 
by this time as he should do by making the separation final. 
Besides, after Mr. Wilkins's speeches that evening — but he 
was candid enough to acknowledge that, bad and offensive as 
they had been, if they had stood alone they might have been 
condoned. 

His letter ran as follows : — 

"Dearest Ellinor, for dearest you are, and I think will 
ever be, my judgment has consented to a step which is giving 
me great pain, greater than you will readily believe. I am con- 
vinced that it is better that we should part ; for circumstances 
have occurred since we formed our engagement which, although 
I am unaware of their exact nature, I can see weigh heavily 
upon you, and have materially affected your father's behaviour 
— nay, I think, after to-night, I may almost say have entirely 
altered his feelings towards me. What these circumstances are 
I am ignorant, any further than that I know from your own 
admission, that they may lead to some future disgrace. Now, 
it may be my fault, it may be in my temperament, to be anxious, 
above all things earthly, to obtain and possess a high reputation. 
I can only say that it is so, and leave you to blame me for my 
weakness as much as you like. But anything that might come 
in between me and this object would, I own, be ill tolerated by 
me ; the very dread of such an obstacle intervening would paralyse 
me. I should become irritable, and, deep as my affection is, and 
always must be, towards you, I could not promise you a happy, 
peaceful life. I should be perpetually haunted by the idea of 
what might happen in the way of discovery and shame. I am 
the more convinced of this from my observation of your father's 
altered character — an alteration which I trace back to the time 
when I conjecture that the secret affairs took place to which you 
have alluded. In short, it is for your sake, my dear Ellinor, 
even more than for my own, that I feel compelled to affix a final 



lOO A DARK night's WORK. 

meaning to the words which your father addressed to me last 
night, when he desired me to leave his house for ever. God 
bless you, my ElUnor, for the last time my Ellinor. Try to 
forget as soon as you can the unfortunate tie which has bound 
you for a time to one so unsuitable — I believe I ought to say so 
unworthy of you — as — Ralph Corbet." 

Ellinor was making breakfast when this letter was given her. 
According to the wont of the servants of the respective house- 
holds of the Parsonage and Ford Bank, the man asked if there 
was any answer. It was only custom ; for he had not been de- 
sired to do so. Ellinor went to the window to read her letter ; 
the man waiting all the time respectfully for her reply. She 
went to the writing-table, and wrote — 

" It is all right — quite right. I ought to have thought of it 
all last August. I do not think you will forget me easily, but I 
entreat you never at any future time to blame yourself. I hope 
you will be happy and successful. I suppose I must never write 
to you again : but I shall always pray for you. Papa was very 
sorry last night for having spoken angrily to you. You must 
forgive him — there is great need for forgiveness in this world.— 
Ellinor." 

She kept putting down thought after thought, just to prolong 
the last pleasure of writing to him. She sealed the note, and 
gave it to the man. Then she sat down and waited for Miss 
Monro, who had gone to bed on the previous night without 
awaiting Ellinor's return from the dining-room. 

"I am late, my dear," said Miss Monro, on coming down, 
"but I have a bad headache, and I knew you had a plea- 
sant companion." Then, looking round, she perceived Ralph's 
absence. 

"Mr. Corbet not down yet!" she exclaimed. And then 
Ellinor had to tell her the outline of the facts so soon likely to 
be made pubUc ; that Mr. Corbet and she had determined to 
break off their engagement ; and that Mr. Corbet had accordingly 
betaken himself to the Parsonage ; and that she did not expect 
him to return to Ford Bank. Miss Monro's astonishment was 
unbounded. She kept going over and over all the little circum- 
stances she had noticed during the last visit, only on yesterday. 



A DARK NIGHTS WORK. lOI 

in fact, which she could not reconcile with the notion that the 
two, apparently so much attached to each other but a few hours 
before, were now to be for ever separated and estranged. 
Ellinor sickened under the torture ; which yet seemed like tor- 
ture in a dream, from which there must come an awakening 
and a relief. She felt as if she could not bear any more ; yet 
there was more to bear. Her father, as it turned out, was very 
ill, and had been so all night long ; he had evidently had some 
kind of attack on the brain, whether apoplectic or paralytic 
it was for the doctors to decide. In the hurry and anxiety of 
this day of misery succeeding to misery, she almost forgot to 
wonder whether Ralph were still at the Parsonage— still in 
Hamley ; it was not till the evening visit of the physician that 
she learnt that he had been seen by Dr. Moore as he was taking 
his place in the morning mail to London. Dr. Moore alluded 
to his name as to a thought that would cheer and comfort the 
fragile girl during her night-watch by her father's bedside. But 
Miss Monro stole out after the doctor to warn him off the subject 
for the future, crying bitterly over the forlorn position of her 
darling as she spoke — crying as Ellinor had never yet been able 
to cry ; though all the time, in the pride of her sex, she was en- 
deavouring to persuade the doctor it was entirely Ellinor's doing, 
and the wisest and best thing she could have done, as he w^as 
not good enough for her, only a poor barrister struggling for a 
livelihood. Like many other kind-hearted people, she fell into 
the blunder of lowering the moral character of those whom it is 
their greatest wish to exalt. But Dr. Moore knew Ellinor too 
well to believe the whole of what Miss Monro said ; she would 
never act from interested motives, and was all the more likely to 
cHng to a man because he was down and unsuccessful. No ! 
there had been a lovers' quarrel ; and it could not have happened 
at a sadder time. 

Before the June roses were in full bloom, Mr. Wilkins was, 
dead. He had left his daughter to the guardianship of Mr. Ness 
by some will made years ago ; but Mr. Ness had caught a rheu- 
matic fever with his Easter fishings, and been unable to be. 
moved home from the little Welsh inn where he had been stay- 
ing when he was taken ill. Since his last attack, Mr. Wilkins's 
mind had been much affected ; he often talked strangely and 
wildly ; but he had rare intervals of quietness and full possession 
of his senses. At one of these times he must have written a half- 



r02 A DARK night's WORK. 

finished pencil note, which his nurse found under his pillow after 
his death, and brought to Ellinor. Through her tear-blinded 
eyes she read the weak, faltering words — 

" I am very ill. I sometimes think I shall never get better, 
so I wish to ask your pardon for what I said the night before I 
was taken ill. I am afraid my anger made mischief between 
you and Ellinor, but I think you will forgive a dying man. If 
you will come back and let all be as it used to be, I will make 
any apology you may require. If I go, she will be so very 
friendless ; and I have looked to you to care for her ever since 
you first " Then came some illegible and incoherent writ- 
ing, ending with, "From my deathbed I adjure you to stand 
her friend ; I will beg pardon on my knees for anything " 

And there strength had failed ; the paper and pencil had been 
laid aside to be resumed at some time when the brain was clearer, 
the hand stronger. Ellinor kissed the letter, reverently folded it 
up, and laid it among her sacred treasures, by her mother's 
half-finished sewing, and a httle curl of her baby sister's golden 
hair. 

Mr. Johnson, who had been one of the trustees for Mrs. 
Wilkins's marriage settlement, a respectable solicitor in the 
county town, and Mr. Ness, had been appointed executors of his 
will, and guardians to Ellinor. The will itself had been made 
several years before, when he imagined himself the possessor of 
a handsome fortune, the bulk of which he bequeathed to his only 
child. By her mother's marriage-settlement, Ford Bank was 
held in trust for the children of the marriage ; the trustees being 
Sir Frank Holster and Mr. Johnson. There were legacies to 
his executors ; a small annuity to Miss Monro, with the expres- 
sion of a hope that it might be arranged for her to continue 
living with Ellinor as long as the latter remained unmarried ; 
all his servants were remembered, Dixon especially, and most 
liberally. 

What remained of the handsome fortune once possessed by 
the testator? The executors asked in vain ; there was nothing. 
They could hardly make out what had become of it, in such 
utter confusion were all the accounts, both personal and official. 
Mr. Johnson was hardly restrained by his compassion for the 
orphan from throwing up the executorship in disgust. Mr. Ness 
roused himself from his scholarlike abstraction to labour 'at the 
examination of books, parchments, and papers, for EUinor's 



A DARK night's WORK. IO3 

sake. Sir Frank Holster professed himself only a trustee for 
Ford Bank. 

Meanwhile she went on living at Ford Bank, quite unconscious 
of the state of her father's affairs, but sunk into a deep, plaintive 
melancholy, which affected her looks and the tones of her voice 
in such a manner as to distress Miss Monro exceedingly. It was 
not that the good lady did not quite acknowledge the great cause 
her pupil had for grieving — deserted by her lover, her father dead 
— but that she could not bear the outward signs of how much 
these sorrows had told on EUinor. Her love for the poor girl 
was infinitely distressed by seeing the daily wasting away, the 
constant heavy depression of spirits, and she grew impatient of 
the continual pain of sympathy. If Miss Monro could have 
done something to relieve EUinor of her woe, she would have 
been less inclined to scold her for giving way to it. 

The time came when Miss Monro could act ; and after that, 
there was no more irritation on her part. When all hope of 
Ellinor's having anything beyond the house and grounds of Ford 
Bank was gone ; when it was proved that of all the legacies be- 
queathed by Mr. Wilkins not one farthing could ever be paid ; 
when it came to be a question how far the beautiful pictures and 
other objects of art in the house w^re not legally the property of 
unsatisfied creditors, the state of her father's affairs was com- 
municated to EUinor as delicately as Mr. Ness knew how. 

She was drooping over her work — she always drooped now — 
and she left off sewing to hsten to him, leaning her head on the 
arm which rested on the table. She did not speak when he 
had ended his statement. She was silent for whole minutes 
afterwards ; he went on speaking out of very agitation and 
awkwardness. 

" It was all the rascal Dunster's doing, I've no doubt," said he, 
trying to account for the entire loss of Mr. Wilkins's fortune. 

To his surprise she lifted up her white stony face, and said, 
slowly and faintly, but with almost solemn calnmess — 

" Mr. Ness, you must never allow Mr. Dunster to be blamed 
for this ! " 

, "My dear EUinor, there can be no doubt about it. Your 
father himself always referred to the losses he had sustained by 
Dunster's disappearance." 

EUinor covered her face with her hands. " God forgive us all," 
she said, and relapsed into the old unbearable silence. Mr. Ness 



I04 A DARK night's WORK. 

had undertaken to discuss her future plans with her, and he was 
obhged to go on. 

" Now, my dear child — I have known you since you were quite 
a little girl, you know — we must try not to give way to feeling" 
— he himself was choking; she was quite quiet — "but think 
what is to be done. You will have the rent of this house, and 
we have a very good offer for it — a tenant on lease of seven years 
at a hundred and twenty pounds a year" 

" I will never let this house," said she, standing up suddenly, 
and as if defying him. 

" Not let Ford Bank ! Why? I don't understand it — I can't 
have been clear — Ellinor, the rent of this house is all you will 
have to live on ! " 

"I can't help it, I can't leave this house. Oh, Mr. Ness, I 
can't leave this house." 

" My dear child, you shall not be hurried — I know how hardly 
all these things are coming upon you (and I wish I had never 
seen Corbet, with all my heart I do !) " — this was almost to him- 
self, but she must have heard it, for she quivered all over — " but 
leave this house you must. You must eat, and the rent of this 
house must pay for your food ; you must dress, and there is 
nothing but the rent to clothe you. I will gladly have you to 
stay at the Parsonage as long as ever you like ; but, in fact, the 
negotiations with Mr. Osbaldistone, the gentleman who offers to 
take the house, are nearly completed" 

" It is my house ! " said Ellinor fiercely. " I know it is settled 
on me." 

-' No, my dear. It is held in trust for you by Sir Frank Hol- 
ster and Mr. Johnson ; you to receive all moneys and benefits 
accruing from it" — he spoke gently, for he almost thought her 
head was turned — " but you remember you are not of age, and 
Mr. Johnson and I have full power." 

Ellinor sat down, helpless. 

" Leave me," she said at length. "You are very kind, but 
you don't know all, I cannot stand any more talking now," she 
added faintly. 

Mr. Ness bent over her and kissed her forehead, and withdrew 
without another word. He went to Miss Monro. 

"Well! and how did you find her?" was her first inquiry, 
after the usual greetings had passed between them. " It is really 
quite sad to see how she gives way ; I speak to her, and speak to 



A DARK night's WORK. I05 

her, and tell her how she is neglecting all her duties, and it does 
no good." 

" She has had to bear a still further sorrow to-day," said Mr. 
Ness. " On the part of Mr. Johnson and myself I have a very 
painful duty to perform to you as well as to her. Mr. Wilkins 
has died insolvent. I grieve to say there is no hope of your ever 
receiving any of your annuity ! " 

Miss Monro looked very blank. Many happy little visions 
faded away in those few moments ; then she roused up and said, 
" I am but forty ; I have a good fifteen years of work in me left 
yet, thank God. Insolvent ! Do you mean he has left no money? " 

" Not a farthing. The creditors may be thankful if they are 
fully paid." 

"And Ellinor?" 

"Ellinor will have the rent of this house, which is hers by 
right of her mother's settlement, to live on." 

" How much will that be?" 

"One hundred and twenty pounds." 

Miss Monro's lips went into a form prepared for whistling. 
Mr. Ness continued — 

"She is at present unwilling enough to leave this house, poor 
girl. It is but natural ; but she has no power in the matter, 
even were there any other course open to her. I can only say 
how glad, how honoured, I shall feel by as long a visit as you 
and she can be prevailed upon to pay me at the Parsonage." 

"Where is Mr. Corbet?" said Miss Monro. 

" I do not know. After breaking off his engagement he vvrote 
me a long letter, explanatory, as he called it ; exculpatory, as I 
termed it. I wrote back, curtly enough, saying that I regretted 
the breaking-off of an intercourse which had always been very 
pleasant to me, but that he must be aware that, with my intimacy 
with the family at Ford Bank, it would be both awkward and 
unpleasant to all parties if he and I remained on our previous 
footing. Who is that going past the window? Ellinor riding?" 

Miss Monro went to the window. " Yes ! I am thankful to 
see her on horseback again. It was only this morning I advised 
her to have a ride ! " 

" Poor Dixon ! he will suffer too ; his legacy can no more be 
paid than the others ; and it is not many young ladies who will 
be as content to have so old-fashioned a groom riding after them 
as EUinor seems to be." 

D 2 



Io6 A DARK night's WORK. 

As soon as Mr. Ness had left, Miss Monro went to her desk 
and wrote a long letter to some friends she had at the cathedral 
town of East Chester, where she had spent some happy years of 
her former life. Her thoughts had gone back to this time even 
while Mr. Ness had been speaking ; for it was there her father 
had lived, and it was after his death that her cares in search of 
a subsistence had begun. But the recollections of the peaceful 
years spent there were stronger than the remembrance of the 
weeks of sorrow and care ; and, while EUinor's marriage had 
seemed a probable event, she had made many a little plan of 
returning to her native place, and obtaining what daily teaching 
she could there meet with, and the friends to whom she w^as now 
writing had promised her their aid. She thought that as Ellinor 
had to leave Ford Bank, a home at a distance might be more 
agreeable to her, and she went on to plan that they should live 
together, if possible, on her earnings, and the small income that 
would be EUinor's. Miss Monro loved her pupil so dearly, that, 
if her own pleasure only were to be consulted, this projected life 
would be more agreeable to her than if Mr. Wilkins's legacy had 
set her in independence, with Ellinor away from her, married, and 
with interests in which her former governess had but little part. 

As soon as Mr. Ness had left her, Ellinor rang the bell, and 
startled the servant who answered it by her sudden sharp desire 
to have the horses at the door as soon as possible, and to tell 
Dixon to be ready to go out with her. 

She felt that she must speak to him, and in her nervous state 
she wan-ted to be out on the free broad common, where no one 
could notice or remark their talk. It was long since she had 
ridden, and much wonder was excited by the sudden movement 
in kitchen and stable-yard. But Dixon went gravely about his 
work of preparation, saying nothing. 

They rode pretty hard till they reached Monk's Heath, six or 
seven miles away from Hamley. Ellinor had previously deter- 
mined that here she would talk over the plan Mr. Ness had 
proposed to her with Dixon, and he seemed to understand her 
without any words passing between them. When she reined 
in he rode up to her, and met the gaze of her sad eyes with 
sympathetic, wistful silence. 

" Dixon," said she, " they say I must leave Ford Bank." 

" I was afeared on it, from all I've heerd say i' the town since 
the master's death." 



A DARK night's WORK. lO/ 

"Then you've heard — then you know — that papa has left 
hardly any money — my poor dear Dixon, you won't have your 
legacy, and I never thought of that before ! " 

"Never heed, never heed," said he eagerly ; " I couldn't have 
touched it if it had been there, for the taking it would ha' seemed 

too like" Blood-money, he was going to say, but he stopped 

in time. She guessed the meaning, though not the word he 
would have used. 

" No, not that," said she ; "his will was dated years before. 
But oh, Dixon, what must I do? They will make me leave Ford 
Bank, I see. I think the trustees have half let it already." 

" But you'll have the rent on't, I reckon ? " asked he anxiously. 
" I've many a time heerd 'em say as it was settled on the missus 
first, and then on you." 

"Oh, yes, it is not that; but you know, under the beech- 
iree" 

"Ay !" said he heavily. " It's been oftentimes on my mind, 
waking, and I think there's ne'er a night as I don't dream of it." 

" But how can I leave it?" Ellinor cried. "They may do a 
hundred things — may dig up the shrubbery. Oh ! Dixon, I feel 
as if it was' sure to be found out ! Oh ! Dixon, I cannot bear 
any more blame on papa — it will kill me — and such a dreadful 
thing, too ! " 

Dixon's face fell into the lines of habitual pain that it had 
always assumed of late years whenever he was thinking or 
remembering anything. 

" They must ne'er ha' reason to speak ill of the dead, that's 
for certain," said he. "The Wilkinses have been respected in 
Haniley all my lifetime, and all my father's before me, and — • 
surely, missy, there's ways and means of tying tenants up from 
alterations both in the house and out of it, and I'd beg the 
trustees, or whatever they's called, to be very particular, if I was 
you, and not have a thing touched either in the house, or the 
gardens, or the meadows, or the stables. I think, wi' a word 
from you, they'd maybe keep me on i' the stables, and I could 
look after things a bit ; and the Day o' Judgment will come at 
last, when ail our secrets will be made known wi'out our having 
the trouble and the shame o' telling 'em. I'm getting rayther 
tired o' this world. Miss Ellinor." 

" Don't talk so," said Ellinor tenderly. " I know how sad it 
is, but, oh ! remember how I shall want a friend when you're 



308 A DARK night's WORK. 

gone, to advise me as you have done to-day. You're not feeling 
ill, Dixon, are you?" she continued anxiously. 

" No ! I'm hearty enough, and likely for t' live. Father was 
eighty-one, and mother above the seventies, when they died. 
It's only my heart as is got to feel so heavy ; and as for that 
matter, so is yours, I'll be bound. And it's a comfort to us both 
if we can serve him as is dead by any care of ours, for he were 
such a bright handsome lad, with such a cheery face, as never 
should ha' known shame." 

They rode on without much more speaking. Ellinor was 
silently planning for Dixon, and he, not caring to look forward 
to the future, was bringing up before his fancy the time, thirty 
years ago, when he had first entered the elder Mr. Wiikins's 
service as stable-lad, and pretty Molly, the scullery-maid, was 
his daily delight. Pretty Molly lay buried in Hamley church- 
yard, and few hving, except Dixon, could have gone straight to 
her grave. 



CHAPTER XI. 

In a few days Miss Monro obtained a most satisfactory reply to 
her letter of inquiries as to whether a daily governess could find 
employment in East Chester. P'or once the application seemed 
to have come just at the right time. The canons were most of 
them married men, with young families ; those at present in 
residence welcomed the idea of such instruction as Miss Monro 
could offer for their children, and could almost answer for their 
successors in office. This was a great step gained. Miss Monro, 
the daughter of a precentor to this very cathedral, had a secret 
unwillingness to being engaged as a teacher by any wealthy 
tradesman there; but to be received into the canons' families, in 
almost any capacity, was like going home. Moreover, besides 
the empty honour of the thing, there were many small pieces of 
patronage in the gift of the Chapter— such as a small house open- 
ing on to the Close, which had formerly belonged to the verger, 
but which was now vacant, and was offered to Miss Monro at a 
nominal rent. 

Ellinor had once more sunk into her old depressed passive 
state ; Mr. Ness and Miss Monro, modest and undecided as 
they both were in general, had to fix and arrange everything for 



A DARK night's WORK. I09 

iher. Her great interest seemed to be in the old servant Dixon, 
and her great pleasure to lie in seeing him, and talking over 
old times ; so her two friends talked about her, little knowing 
what a bitter, stinging pain her "pleasure" was. In vain 
Ellinor tried to plan how they could take Dixon with them to 
East Chester. If he had been a woman it would have been a 
feasible step ; but they were only to keep one servant, and 
Dixon, capable and versatile as he was, would not do for that 
servant. All this was what passed through Ellinor's mind : it 
is still a question whether Dixon would have felt his love of his 
native place, with all its associations and remembrances, or his 
love for Ellinor, the stronger. But he was not put to the 
proof; he was only told that he must leave, and seeing Ellinor's 
extreme grief at the idea of their separation, he set himself to 
comfort her by every means in his power, reminding her, with 
tender choice of words, how necessary it was that he should 
remain on the spot, in Mr. Osbaldistone's service, in order to 
frustrate, by any small influence he might have, every project of 
alteration in the garden that contained the dreadful secret. 
He persisted in this view, though Ellinor repeated, with per- 
dnacious anxiety, the care which Mr. Johnson had taken, in 
drawing up the lease, to provide against any change or altera- 
tion being made in the present disposition of the house or 
grounds. 

People in general were rather astonished at the eagerness Miss 
Wilkins showed to sell all the Ford Bank furniture. Even 
Miss Monro was a little scandalised at this want of sentiment, 
although she said nothing about it; indeed justified the step, by 
teUing every one how wisely Ellinor was acting, as the large, 
handsome tables and chairs would be very much out of place 
and keeping with the small, oddly-shaped rooms of their future 
home in East Chester Close. None knew how strong was the 
instinct of self-preservation, it may almost be called, which 
impelled Ellinor to shake off, at any cost of present pain, the 
incubus of a terrible remembrance. She wanted to go into an 
unhaunted dwelling in a free, unknown country — she felt as if it 
was her only chance of sanity. Sometimes she thought her 
senses would not hold together till the time when all these 
arrangements were ended. But she did not speak to nny one 
about her feelings, poor child ; to whom could she speak on the 
subject but to Dixon? Nor did she define them to herself. 



no A DARK night's WORK. 

All she knew was, that she was as nearly going mad as possible; 
and if she did, she feared that she might betray her father's 
guilt. All this time she never cried, or varied from her dull, 
passive demeanour. And they were blessed tears of relief that 
she shed when Miss Monro, herself weeping bitterly, told her 
to put her head out of the post-chaise window, for at the next 
turning of the road they would catch the last gUmpse of Hamley 
church spire. 

Late one October evening, Eliinor had her first sight of East 
Chester Close, where she was to pass the remainder of her life. 
Miss Monro had been backwards and forwards between Hamley 
and East Chester more than once, while Eliinor remained at ihe 
Parsonage ; so she had not only the pride of proprietorship in 
the whole of the beautiful city, but something of the desire of 
hospitably welcoming Eliinor to their joint future home. 

" Look! the fly must take us a long round, because of our 
luggage ; but behind these high old walls are the canons' 
gardens. That high-pitched roof, with the clumps of stonecrop 
on the walls near it, is Canon Wilson's, whose four little girls 
I am to teach. Hark ! the great cathedral clock. How proud 
I used to be of its great boom when I was a child 1 I thought 
all the other church clocks in the town sounded so shrill and 
poor after that, which I considered mine especially. There are 
rooks flying home to the elms in the Close. I wonder if they 
are the same that used to be there when I was a girl. They 
say the rook is a very long-hved bird, and I feel as if I could 
swear to the way they are cawing. Ay, you may smile, Eliinor, 
but I understand now those lines of Gray's you used to say so 
prettily — 

; * I feel the gales that from ye blow, 

A momentary bliss bestow, 
And breathe a second spring.' 

Now, dear, you must get out. This flagged walk leads to our 
front-door ; but our back rooms, which are the pleasantest, look 
on to the Close, and the cathedral, and the lime-tree walk, and 
the deanery, and the rookery." 

It was a mere slip of a house ; the kitchen being wisely placed 
close to the front-door, and so reserving the pretty view for the 
little dining-room, out of which a glass-door opened into a small 
"walled-in garden, which had again an entrance into the Close. 



A DARK NIGHTS WORK. Ill 

Upstairs was a bedroom to the front, which Miss Monro had 
taken for herself, because, as she said, she had old associations 
with the back of every house in the High Street, while Ellinor 
mounted to the pleasant chamber above the tiny drawing- 
room, both of which looked on to the vast and solemn cathedral^ 
and the peaceful dignified Close. East Chester Cathedral 
is Norman, with a low, massive tower, a grand, majestic nave, 
and a choir full of stately historic tombs. The whole city is 
so quiet and decorous a place, that the perpetual daily chants 
and hymns of praise seemed to sound far and wide over the 
roofs of the houses. Ellinor soon became a regular attendant 
at all the morning and evening services. The sense of worship 
calmed and soothed her aching weary heart, and to be punctual 
to the cathedral hours she roused and exerted herself, when 
probably nothing else would have been sufficient to this end. 

By-and-by Miss Monro formed many acquaintances ; she 
picked up, or was picked up by, old friends, and the descendants 
of old friends. The grave and kindly canons, whose children 
she taught, called upon her with their wives, and talked over 
the former deans and chapters, of whom she had both a personal 
and traditional knowledge, and as they walked away and talked 
about her silent delicate-looking friend Miss Wilkins, and per- 
haps planned some little present out of their fruitful garden or 
bounteous , stores, which should make Miss Monro's table a 
little more tempting to one apparently so frail as Ellinor, for the 
household was always spoken of as belonging to Miss Monro, 
the active and prominent person. By-and-by, Ellinor herself 
won her way to their hearts, not by words or deeds, but by her 
sweet looks and meek demeanour, as they marked her regular 
attendance at cathedral service ; and when they heard of her 
constant visits to a certain parochial school, and of her being 
sometimes seen carrying a little covered basin to the cottages 
of the poor, they began to try and tempt her, with more urgent 
words, to accompany Miss Monro in her frequent tea-drinkings 
Cit their houses. The old dean, that courteous gentleman and 
good Christian, had early become great friends with Ellinor. 
He would watch at the windows of his great vaulted library till 
he saw her emerge from the garden into the Close, and then 
-open the deanery door, and join her, she softly adjusting the 
measure of her pace to his. The time of his departure from 
East Chester became a great blank in her life, although she 



112 A DARK NIGHTS WORK. 

would never accept, or allow Miss Monro to accept, his repeated 
invitations to go and pay him a visit at his country-place. 
Indeed, having once tasted comparative peace again in East 
Chester Cathedral Close, it seemed as though she was afraid 
of ever venturing out of those calm precincts. All Mr. Ness's 
invitations to visit him at his parsonage at Hamley were declined, 
although he was welcomed at Miss Monro's on the occasion of 
his annual visit, by every means in their power. He slept at 
one of the canon's vacant houses, and Hved with his two friends, 
who made a yearly festivity, to the best of their means, in 
his honour, inviting such of the cathedral clergy as were in 
residence : or, if they failed, condescending to the town clergy. 
Their friends knew well that no presents were so acceptable as 
those sent while Mr. Ness was with them ; and from the dean, 
who would send them a hamper of choice fruit and flowers from 
Oxton Park, down to the curate, who worked in the same 
schools as Ellinor, and who was a great fisher, and caught 
splendid trout — all did their best to help them to give a wel- 
come to the only visitor they ever had. The only visitor they 
ever had, as far as the stately gentry knew. There was one, 
however, who came as often as his master could give him a 
holiday long enough to undertake a journey to so distant 
a place ; but few knew of his being a guest at Miss Monro's, 
though his welcome there was not less hearty than Mr. Ness's 
— this was Dixon. Ellinor had convinced him that he could 
give her no greater pleasure at any time than by allowing her 
to frank him to and from East Chester. Whenever he came 
they were together the greater part of the day ; she taking him 
hither and thither to see all the sights that she thought would 
interest or please him ; but they spoke very little to each other 
during all this companionship. Miss Monro had much more 
to say to him. She questioned him right and left whenever 
Ellinor was out of the room. She learnt that the house at Ford 
Bank was splendidly furnished, and no money spared on the 
garden ; that the eldest Miss Hanbury was very well married ; 
that Brown had succeeded to Jones in the haberdasher's shop. 
Then she hesitated a little before making her next inquiry — 
" I suppose Mr. Corbet never comes to the Parsonage now ?" 
"No, not he. I don't think as how Mr. Ness would have 
him ; but they write letters to each other by times. Old Job — 
you'll recollect old Job, ma'am, he that gardened for Mr. Ness, 



A DARK night's WORK. II3 

and waited in the parlour when there was company — did say as 
one day he heard them speaking about Mr. Corbet ; and he's 
a grand counsellor now — one of them as goes about at assize- 
time, and speaks in a wig." 

"A barrister, you mean," said Miss Monro. 

"Ay; and he's something more than that, though I can't 
rightly remember what." 

Ellinor could have told them both. They had the Times lent 
to them on the second day after pubhcation by one of their 
friends in the Close, and EUinor, watching till Miss Monro's eyes 
were otherwise engaged, always turned with trembling hands and 
a beating heart to the reports of the various courts of law. In 
them she found— at first rarely — the name she sought for, the 
name she dwelt upon, as if every letter were a study. Mr. Losh 
and Mr. Buncombe appeared for the plaintiff, Mr. Smythe and 
Mr. Corbet for the defendant. In a year or two that name 
appeared more frequently, and generally took the precedence of 
the other, whatever it might be ; then on special occasions his 
speeches were reported at full length, as if his words were 
accounted weighty ; and by-and-by she saw that he had been 
appointed a Queen's Counsel. And this was all she ever heard or 
saw about him; his once familiar name never passed her lips 
except in hurried whispers to Dixon, when he came to stay with 
them. Ellinor had had no idea when she parted from Mr. 
Corbet how total the separation between them was hence- 
forward to be, so much seemed left unfinished, unexplained. It 
was so difficult, at first, to break herself of the habit of constant 
mental reference to him ; and for many a long year she kept 
thinking that surely some kind fortune would bring them together 
again, and all this heart-sickness and melancholy estrangement 
from each other would then seem to both only as an ugly dream 
that had passed away in the morning light. 

The dean was an old man, but there was a canon who was 
older still, and whose death had been expected by many, and 
speculated upon by some, any time for ten years at least. Canon 
Holdsworth was too old to show active kindness to any one ; the 
good dean's hfe was full of thoughtful and benevolent deeds. 
But he was taken, and the other left. Ellinor looked out at the 
v^icant deanery with tearful eyes, the last thing at night, the first 
in the morning. But it is pretty nearly the same with church 
dignitaries as with kings ; the dean is dead, long five the dean I 



114 A DARK night's WORK. 

A clergyman from a distant county was appointed, and all the 
Close was astir to learn and hear every particular connected with 
him. Luckily he came in at the tag-end of one of the noble, 
families in the peerage ; so, at any rate, all his future associates 
could learn with tolerable certainty that he was forty-two years 
of age, married, and with eight daughters and one son. The 
deanery, formerly so quiet and sedate a dwelling of the one old 
man, was now to be filled with noise and merriment. Iron 
raiUngs were being placed before three windows, evidently to be 
the nursery. In the summer publicity of open windows and 
doors, the sound of the busy carpenters was perpetually heard all 
over the Close : and by-and-by waggon-loads of furniture and 
carriage-loads of people began to arrive. Neither Miss Monro 
nor EUinor felt themselves of sufficient importance or station to 
call on the new-comers, but they were as w^ell acquainted with 
the proceedings of the family as if they had been in daily inter- 
course ; they knew that the eldest Miss Beauchamp was seventeen, 
and very pretty, only one shoulder was higher than the other; 
that she was dotingly fond of dancing, and talked a great deal in 
a ieie-d-tete, but not much if her mamma was by, and never opened 
her lips at all if the dean was in the room ; that the next sister 
was wonderfully clever, and was supposed to knov/ all the 
governess could teach her, and to have private lessons in Greek 
and mathematics from her father ; and so on down to the little 
boy at the preparatory school and the baby-girl in arms. More- 
over, Miss Monro, at any rate, could have stood an examination 
as to the number of servants at the deanery, their division of 
work, and the hours of their meals. Presently, a very beautiful,, 
haughty-looking young lady made her appearance in the Close, 
and in the dean's pew. She was said to be his niece, the orphan 
daughter of his brother, General Beauchamp, come to East 
Chester to reside for the necessary time before her marriage, 
which was to be performed in the cathedral by her uncle, the 
new dignitary. But as callers at the deanery did not see this 
beautiful bride elect, and as the Beatichamps had not as yet fallen 
into habits of intimacy with any of their new acquaintances, 
very little was known of the circumstances of this approaching 
wedding beyond the particulars given above. 

EUinor and Miss Monro sat at their drawing-room window, a 
little shaded by the muslin curtains, watching the busy prepara- 
tions for the marriage, which was to take place the next day. 



A DARK night's WORK. II5 

All morning long, hampers of fruit and flowers, boxes from the 
railway — for by this time East Chester had got a railway— shop 
messengers, hired assistants, kept passing backwards and forwards 
in the busy Close. Towards afternoon the bustle subsided, the 
scaffolding was up, the materials for the next day's feast carried 
out of sight. It was to be concluded that the bride elect was 
seeing to the packing of her trousseau, helped by the merry 
multitude of cousins, and that the servants were arranging the 
dinner for the day, or the breakfast for the morrow. So Miss 
Monro had settled it, discussing every detail and every probability 
as though she were a chief actor, instead of only a distant, 
uncared-for spectator of the coming event. EUinor was tired, 
and now that there was nothing interesting going on, she had 
fallen back to her sewing, when she was startled by Miss Monro's 
exclamation — 

" Look, look ! here are two gentlemen coming along the lime- 
tree walk ! it must be the bridegroom and his friend." Out of 
much sympathy, and some curiosity, Ellinor bent forward, and 
saw, just emerging from the shadow of the trees on to the full 
afternoon sunlit pavement, Mr. Corbet and another gentleman ; 
the former changed, worn, aged, though with still the same fine 
intellectual face, leaning on the arm of the younger taller man, 
and talking eagerly. The other gentleman was doubtless the 
bridegroom, Ellinor said to herself; and yet her prophetic heart 
did not believe her words. Even before the bright beauty at 
the deanery looked out of the great oriel window of the drawing- 
room, and blushed, and smiled, and kissed her hand — a gesture 
replied to by Mr. Corbet with much e7npresse7nent, while the 
other man only took off his hat, almost as if he saw her there 
for the first time — Ellinor's greedy eyes watched him till he was 
hidden from sight in the deanery, unheeding Miss Monro's eager 
incoherent sentences, in turn entreating, apologising, comforting, 
and upbraiding. Then she slowly turned her painful eyes upon 
Miss Monro's face, and moved her lips without a sound being 
heard, and fainted dead away. In all her life she had never 
done so before, and when she came round she was not like her- 
self; in all probability the persistence and wilfulness she, who 
was usually so meek and docile, showed during the next twenty- 
"four hours, was the consequence of fever. She resolved to be 
present at the wedding ; numbers were going ; she would be 
unseen, unnoticed in the crowd ; but whatever befell, go she 



Il6 A DARK night's WORK. 

would, and neither the tears nor the prayers of Miss Monro could 
keep her back. She gave no reason for this determination ; in- 
deed, in all probability she had none to give ; so there was no 
arguing the point. She was inflexible to entreaty, and no one 
had any authority over her, except, perhaps, distant Mr. Ness. 
Miss Monro had all sorts of forebodings as to the possible scenes 
that might come to pass. But all went on as quietly as though 
the fullest sympathy pervaded every individual of the great 
numbers assembled. No one guessed that the muffled, veiled 
figure, sitting in the shadow behind one of the great pillars, was 
that of one who had once hoped to stand at the altar with the 
same bridegroom, who now cast tender looks at the beautiful 
bride ; her veil white and fairy-like, Ellinor's black and shroud- 
ing as that of any nun. 

Already Mr. Corbet's name was known through the country 
as that of a great lawyer ; people discussed his speeches and 
character far and wide ; and the well-informed in legal gossip 
spoke of him as sure to be offered a judgeship at the next 
vacancy. So he, though grave, and middle-aged, and somewhat 
grey, divided attention and remark with his lovely bride, and her 
pretty train of cousin bridesmaids. Miss Monro need not have 
feared for EUinor : she saw and heard all things as in a mist — a 
dream ; as something she had to go through, before she could 
waken up to a reality of brightness in which her youth, and the 
hopes of her youth, should be restored, and all these weary years 
of dreaminess and woe should be revealed as nothing but the 
nightmare of a night. She sat motionless enough, still enough. 
Miss Monro by her, watching her as intently as a keeper watches 
a madman, and with the same purpose — to prevent any outburst 
even by bodily strength, if such restraint be needed. When all 
was over ; when the principal personages of the ceremony had 
filed into the vestry to sign their names ; when the swarm of 
townspeople were going out as swiftly as their individual notions 
of the restraints of the sacred edifice permitted ; when the great 
chords of the " Wedding March" clanged out from the organ, 
and the loud bells pealed overhead — Ellinor laid her hand in 
Miss Monro's. "Take me home," she said softly. And Miss 
Monro led her home as one leads the bhnd. 



A DARK night's WORK. 11 J 



CHAPTER XII. 

There are some people who imperceptibly float away from 
their youth into middle age, and thence pass into declining life 
with the soft and gentle motion of happy years. There are 
others who are whirled, in spite of themselves, down dizzy 
rapids of agony away from their youth at one great bound, inta 
old age with another sudden shock ; and thence into the vast 
calm ocean where there are no shore-marks to tell of time. 

This last, it seemed, was to be EUinor's lot. Her youth had 
gone in a single night, fifteen years ago, and now she appeared 
to have become an elderly woman ; very still and hopeless 
in look and movement, but as sweet and gentle in speech and 
smile as ever she had been in her happiest days. All young 
people, when they came to know her, loved her dearly, though 
at first they might call her dull, and heavy to get on with ; and 
as for children and old people, her ready watchful sympathy 
in their joys as well as their sorrows was an unfailing passage 
to their hearts. After the first great shock of Mr. Corbet's 
marriage was over, she seemed to pass into a greater peace than 
she had known for years ; the last faint hope of happiness was 
gone ; it would, perhaps, be more accurate to say, of the bright 
happiness she had planned for herself in her early youth. 
Unconsciously, she was being weaned from self-seeking in any 
shape, and her daily life became, if possible, more innocent and 
pure and holy. One of the canons used to laugh at her for her 
constant attendance at all the services, and for her devotion to 
good works, and call her always the reverend sister. Miss 
Monro was a little annoyed at this faint clerical joke ; Ellinor 
smiled quietly. Miss Monro disapproved of EUinor's grave 
ways and sober severe style of dress. 

" You may be as good as you like, my dear, and yet go dressed 
in some pretty colour, instead of those perpetual blacks and greys, 
and then there would be no need for me to be perpetually tell- 
ing people you are only four-and-thirty (and they don't believe 
me, though I tell them so till I am black in the face). Or if you 
would but wear a decent-shaped bonnet, instead of always wear- 
ing those of the poky shape in fashion when you were seventeen. " 

The old canon died, and some one was to be appointed in his 



Il8 A DARK night's WORK. 

stead. These clerical preferments and appointments were the 
all-important interests to the inhabitants of the Close, and the 
discussion of probabilities came up invariably if any two met 
together in street or house, or even in the very cathedral itself. 
At length it was settled and announced by the higher powers. 
An energetic, hard-working clergyman from a distant part of the 
diocese, Livingstone by name, was to have the vacant canonry 

Miss Monro said that the name was somehow familiar to her, 
and by degrees she recollected the young curate who had come 
to inquire after Ellinor in that dreadful illness she had had at 
Hamley in the year 1829. Ellinor knew nothing of that visit ; 
no more than Miss Monro did of what had passed between the 
two before that anxious night. Ellinor just thought it possible 
it might be the same Mr. Livingstone, and would rather it were 
not, because she did not feel as if she could bear the frequent 
though not intimate intercourse she must needs have, if such 
were the case, with one so closely associated with that great 
time of terror which she was striving to bury out of sight by 
every effort in her power. Miss Monro, on the contrary, was 
busy weaving a romance for her pupil ; she thought of the 
passionate interest displayed by the fair young clergyman fifteen 
years ago, and believed that occasionally men could be constant, 
and hoped that, if Mr. Livingstone were the new canon, he 
might prove the rara avis which exists but once in a century. 
He came, and it w^as the same. He looked a little stouter, 
a little older, but had still the gait and aspect of a young man. 
His smooth fair face was scarcely lined at all with any marks of 
care ; the blue eyes looked so kindly and peaceful that Miss 
Monro could scarcely fancy they were the same which she had 
seen fast filling with tears ; the bland calm look of the whole 
man needed the ennoblement of his evident devoutness to be 
raised into the type of holy innocence which some of the Romanists 
call the "sacerdotal face." His entire soul was in his work, 
and he looked as httle likely to step forth in the character of 
either a hero of romance or a faithful lover as could be imagined. 
Still Miss Monro was not discouraged ; she remembered the 
warm, passionate feeling she had once seen break through the 
calm exterior, and she believed that what had happened once 
might occur again. 

Of course, while all eyes were directed on the new canon, he 
.had to learn who the possessors of those eyes were one by one ; 



A DARK night's WORK. II9 

and it was probably some time before the idea came into his 
mind that Miss Wilkins, the lady in black, with the sad pale 
face, so constant an attendant at service, so regular a visitor at 
the school, was the same Miss Wilkins as the bright vision of 
his youth. It was her sweet smile at a painstaking child that 
betrayed her — if, indeed, betrayal it might be called where there 
was no wish or effort to conceal anything. Canon Livingstone 
left the schoolroom almost directly, and, after being for an hour or 
so in his house, went out to call on Mrs. Randall, the person who 
knew more of her neighbours' aftairs than any one in East Chester. 
The next day he called on Miss Wilkins herself. She would 
have been very glad if he had kept on in his ignorance ; it was 
so keenly painful to be in the company of one the sight of whom, 
even at a distance, had brought her such a keen remembrance 
of past misery ; and when told of his call, as she was sitting at 
her sewing in the dining-room, she had to nerve herself for the 
interview before going upstairs into the drawing-room, where 
he was being entertained by Miss Monro with warm demonstra- 
tions of welcome. A little contraction of the brow, a little com- 
pression of the lips, an increased pallor on EUinor's part, was 
all that Miss Monro could see in her, though she had put on 
her glasses with foresight and intention to observe. She turned 
to the canon ; his colour had certainly deepened as he went 
forwards with outstretched hand to meet ElHnor. That was all 
that v,'as to be seen ; but on the shght foundation of that blush, 
Miss Monro built many castles ; and when they faded away, 
one after one, she recognised that they were only baseless visions. 
She used to put the disappointment of her hopes down to EUi- 
nor's unvaried calmness of demeanour, which might be taken 
for coldness of disposition ; and to her steady refusal to allow 
Miss Monro to invite Canon Livingstone to the small teas they 
were in the habit of occasionally giving. Yet he persevered in 
his calls ; about once every fortnight he came, and would sit an 
hour or more, looking covertly at his watch, as if, as Miss Monro 
shrewdly observed to herself, he did not go away at last be- 
cause he wished to do so, but because he ought. Sometimes 
EUinor was present, sometimes she was away ; in this latter 
case Miss Monro thought she could detect a certain wistful 
watching of the door every time a noise was heard outside the 
room. He always avoided any reference to former days at 
Hamley, and that, Miss Monro feared, was a bad sign. 



I20 A DARK night's WORK. 

After this long uniformity of years without any event closely 
touching on EUinor's own individual life, with the one great 
exception of Mr. Corbet's marriage, something happened which 
much affected her. Mr. Ness died suddenly at his parsonage, 
and Ellinor learnt it first from Mr. Brown, a clergyman, whose 
living was near Hamley, and who had been sent for by the Par- 
sonage servants as soon as they discovered that it was not sleep, 
but death, that made their master so late in rising. 

Mr. Brown had been appointed executor by his late friend, 
and wrote to tell Ellinor that after a few legacies were paid, she 
was to have a hfe-interest in the remainder of the small property 
which Mr. Ness had left, and that it would be necessary for her, 
as the residuary legatee, to come to Hamley Parsonage as soon 
as convenient, to decide upon certain courses of action with 
regard to furniture, books, &c. 

Ellinor shrank from this journey, which her love and duty 
towards her dead friend rendered necessary. She had scarcely 
left East Chester since she first arrived there, sixteen or seven- 
teen years ago, and she was timorous about the very mode of 
travelling ; and then to go back to Hamley, which she thought 
never to have seen again ! She never spoke much about any 
feelings of her own, but Miss Monro could always read her 
silence, and interpreted it into pretty just and forcible words 
that afternoon when Canon Livingstone called. She liked to talk 
about Ellinor to him, and suspected that he liked to hear. She 
was almost annoyed this time by the comfort he would keep 
giving her ; there was no greater danger in travelling by rail- 
road than by coach, a httle care about certain things was re- 
quired, that was all, and the average number of deaths by 
accidents on railroads was not greater than the average number 
when people travelled by coach, if you took into consideration 
the far greater number of travellers. Yes ! returning to the de- 
serted scenes of one's youth was very painful. . . . Had Miss 
Wilkins made any provision for another lady to take her place 
as visitor at the school ? He believed it was her week. Miss 
Monro was out of all patience at his entire calmness and reason- 
ableness. Later in the day she became more at peace with him, 
when she received a kind Httle note from Mrs. Forbes, a great 
friend of hers, and the mother of the family she was now teach- 
ing, saying that Canon Livingstone had called and told her 
that Ellinor had to go on a very painful journey, and that Mrs. 



A DARK NIGHTS WORK. 121 

Forbes was quite sure Miss Monro's companionship upon it 
would be a great comfort to both, and that she could perfectly 
be set at liberty for a fortnight or so, for it would fall in 
admirably with the fact that " Jeanie was growing tall, and 
the doctor had advised sea air this spring ; so a month's holi- 
day would suit them now even better than later on." Was 
this going straight to Mrs. Forbes, to whom she should herself 
scarcely have liked to name it, the act of a good, thoughtful 
man, or of a lover? questioned Miss Monro ; but she could not 
answer her own inquiry, and had to be very grateful for the 
deed, without accounting for the motives. 

A coach met the train at a station about ten miles from 
Hamley, and Dixon was at the inn where the coach stopped, 
ready to receive them. 

The old man was almost in tears at the sight of them again 
in a familiar place. He had put on his Sunday clothes to do 
them honour ; and to conceal his agitation he kept up a pre- 
tended bustle about their luggage. To the indignation of the 
inn-porters, who were of a later generation, he would wheel it 
himself to the Parsonage, though he broke down from fatigue 
once or twice on the way, and had to stand and rest, his ladies 
waiting by his side, and making remarks on the alterations of 
houses and the places of trees, in order to give him ample time 
to recruit himself, for there was no one to wait for them and 
give them a welcome to the Parsonage, which was to be their 
temporary home. The respectful servants, in deep mourning, 
had all prepared, and gave Ellinor a note from Mr. Brown, 
saying that he purposely refrained from disturbing them that 
day after their long journey, but would call on the morrow, and 
tell them of the arrangements he had thought of making, always 
subject to Miss Wilkins's approval. 

These were simple enough ; certain legal forms to be gone 
through, any selections from books or furniture to be made, and 
the rest to be sold by auction as speedily as convenient, as the 
successor to the living might wish to have repairs and alterations 
effected in the old parsonage. For some days Ellinor employed 
herself in business in the house, never going out except to church. 
Miss Monro, on the contrary, strolled about everywhere, noticing 
all the alterations in place and people, which were never im- 
provements in her opinion. Ellinor had plenty of callers (her 
tenants, Mr. and Mrs. Osbaldistone, among others), but, except- 



122 A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 

ing in rare cases — most of them belonged to humble life — she 
declined to see every one, as she had business enough on her 
hands : sixteen years makes a great difference in any set ot 
people. The old acquaintances of her father in his better days 
were almost all dead or removed; there were one or two re- 
maining, and these EUinor received ; one or two more, old and 
infirm, confined to their houses, she planned to call upon before 
leaving Hamley. Every evening, when Dixon had done his work 
at Mr. Osbaldistone's, he came up to the parsonage, ostensibly 
to help her in moving or packing books, but really because these 
two clung to each other — were bound to each other by a bond 
never to be spoken about. It was understood between them 
that once before EUinor left she should go and see the old place, 
Ford Bank. Not to go into the house, though Mr. and Mrs. 
Osbaldistone had begged her to name her own time for revisit- 
ing it, when they and their family would be absent, but to see 
all the gardens and grounds once more ; a solemn, miserable 
visit, which, because of the very misery it involved, appeared to 
EUinor to be an imperative duty. 

Dixon and she talked together as she sat making a catalogue 
one evening in the old low-browed library ; the casement windows 
were open into the garden, and the May showers had brought 
out the scents of the new-leaved sweetbriar bush just below. 
Beyond the garden hedge the grassy meadows sloped away down 
to the river ; the Parsonage was so much raised that, sitting in 
the house, you could see over the boundary hedge. Men with 
instruments were busy in the meadow. EUinor, pausing in her 
work, asked Dixon what they were doing. 

" Them's the people for the new railway," said he. " Nought 
would satisfy the Hamley folk but to have a railway all to them.- 
selves— coaches isn't good enough now-a-days." 

He spoke with a tone of personal offence natural to a man who 
had passed all his life among horses, and considered railway- 
engines as their despicable rivals, conquering only by stratagem. 

By-and-by EUinor passed on to a subject the consideration of 
which she had repeatedly urged upon Dixon, and entreated him 
to come and form one of their household at East Chester. He 
was growing old, she thought, older even in looks and feelings 
than in years, and she would make him happy and comfortable 
in his declining years if he would but come and pass them under 
her care. The addition which Mr. Ness's bequest made to her 



A DARK night's WORK. I23 

income would enable her to do not only this, but to relieve Miss 
Monro of her occupation of teaching ; which, at the years she 
had arrived at, was becoming burdensome. When she proposed 
the removal to Dixon he shook his head. 

"It's not that I don't thank you, and kindly, too; but I'm 
too old to go chopping and changing." 

"But it would be no change to come back to me, Dixon," 
said Ellinor. 

" Yes, it would. I were born i' Hamley, and it's i' Hamley I 
reckon to die." 

On her urging him a little more, it came out that he had a 
strong feeling that if he did not watch the spot where the dead 
man lay buried, the whole would be discovered ; and that this 
dread of his had often poisoned the pleasure of his visit to East 
Chester. 

" I don't rightly know how it is, for I sometimes think if it 
wasn't for you, missy, I should be glad to have made it all 
clear before I go ; and yet at times I dream, or it comes into 
my head as I lie awake with the rheumatics, that some one is 
there, digging ; or that I hear 'em cutting down the tree ; and 
then I get up and look out of the loft window — you'll mind 
the window over the stables, as looks into the garden, all 
covered over wi' the leaves of the jargonelle pear-tree? That 
were my room when first I come as stable-boy, and tho' Mr. 
Osbaldistone would fain give me a warmer one, I allays tell 
him I like th' old place best. And by times I've getten up five 
or six times a-night to make sure as there was no one at work 
under the tree." 

Ellinor shivered a little. He saw it, and restrained himself 
in the relief he was receiving from imparting his superstitious 
fancies. 

" You see, missy, I could never rest a-nights if I didn't feel as 
if I kept the secret in my hand, and held it tight day and night, 
so as I could open my hand at any minute and see as it was 
there. No ! my own little missy will let me come and see her 
now and again, and I know as I can allays ask her for what I 
want ; and if it please God to lay me by, I shall tell her so, 
and she'll see as I want for nothing. But somehow I could 
ne'er bear leaving Hamley. You shall come and follow me to 
my grave when my time comes." 

" Don't talk so, please, Dixon," said she. 



124 A DARK night's WORK. 

" Nay, it'll be a mercy when I can lay me down and sleep in 
peace : though I sometimes fear as peace will not come to me 
even there." He was going out of the room, and was now 
more talking to himself than to her. "They say blood will 
out, and if it weren't for her part in it, I could wish for a clear 
breast before I die." 

She did not hear the latter part of this mumbled sentence. 
She was looking at a letter just brought in and requiring an 
immediate answer. It was from Mr. Brown. Notes from him 
were of daily occurrence, but this contained an open letter the 
writing of which was strangely familiar to her — it did not need 
the signature " Ralph Corbet," to tell her whom the letter came 
from. For some moments she could not read the words. They 
expressed a simple enough request, and were addressed to the 
auctioneer who was to dispose of the rather valuable library of 
the late Mr. Ness, and whose name had been advertised in 
connection with the sale, in the Athenceum, and other similar 
papers. To him Mr. Corbet wrote, saying that he should be 
unable to be present when the books were sold, but that he 
wished to be allowed to buy in, at any price decided upon, a 
certain rare folio edition of Virgil, bound in parchment, and 
with notes in Italian. The book was fully described. Though 
no Latin scholar, Ellinor knew the book well — remembered its 
look from old times, and could instantly have laid her hand 
upon it. The auctioneer had sent the request on to his 
employer, Mr. Brown. That gentleman applied to Ellinor 
for her consent. She saw that the fact of the intended sale 
must be all that Mr. Corbet was aware of, and that he could 
not know to whom the books belonged. She chose out the 
book, and wrapped and tied it up with trembling hands. He 
might be the person to untie the knot. It was strangely familiar 
to her love, after so many years, to be brought into thus much 
contact with him. She wrote a short note to Mr. Brown, in 
which she requested him to say, as though from himself, and 
without any mention of her name, that he, as executor, re- 
quested Mr. Corbet's acceptance of the Virgil, as a remembrance 
of his former friend and tutor. Then she rang the bell, and 
gave the letter and parcel to the servant. 

Again alone, and Mr. Corbet's open letter on the table. She 
took it up and looked at it till the letters dazzled crimson on 
the white paper. Her life rolled backwards, and she was a 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 25 

girl again. At last she roused herself ; but instead of destroy- 
ing the note — it was long years since all her love-letters from 
him had been returned to the writer — she unlocked her little 
writing-case again, and placed this letter carefully down at 
the bottom, among the dead rose-leaves which embalmed the 
note from her father, found after his death under his pillow, 
the little golden curl of her sister's, the half-finished sewing 
of her mother. 

The shabby writing-case itself was given her by her father 
long ago, and had since been taken with her everywhere. To be 
sure, her changes of place had been but few ; but if she had gone 
to Nova Zembla, the sight of that little leather box on awaking 
from her first sleep, would have given her a sense of home. She 
locked the case up again, and felt all the richer for that morning. 

A day or two afterwards she left Hamley. Before she went 
she compelled herself to go round the gardens and grounds 
of Ford Bank. She had made Mrs. Osbaldistone understand 
that it would be painful for her to re-enter the house ; but Mr. 
Osbaldistone accompanied her in her walk. 

" You see how literally we have obeyed the clause in the lease 
which ties us out from any alterations," said he, smiling. " We 
are living in a tangled thicket of wood. I must confess that I 
should have liked to cut down a good deal ; but we do not do even 
the requisite thinnings without making the proper application for 
leave to Mr. Johnson. In fact, your old friend Dixon is jealous 
of every pea-stick the gardener cuts. I never met with so faithful 
a fellow. A good enough servant, too, in his way ; but some- 
what too old-fashioned for my wife and daughters, who complain 
of his being surly now and then." 

"You are not thinking of parting with him?" said Ellinor, 
jealous for Dixon. 

" Oh, no ; he and I are capital friends. And I beheve Mrs. 
Osbaldistone herself would never consent to his leaving us. But 
some ladies, you know, like a little more subserviency in manner 
than our friend Dixon can boast." 

Ellinor made no reply. They were entering the painted 
flower garden, hiding the ghastly memory. She could not speak. 
She felt as if, with all her striving, she could not move — just as 
one does in a nightmare — but she was past the place even as this 
terror came to its acme ; and when she came to herself, Mr. 
Osbaldistone was still blandly talking, and saying — 



126 A DARK night's WORK. 

"It is now a reward for our obedience to your wishes, Miss 
Wilkins, for if the projected railway passes through the ash-field 
yonder we should have been perpetually troubled with the sight of 
the trains ; indeed, the sound would have been much more distinct 
than it will be now coming through the interlacing branches. 
Then you will not go in, Miss Wilkins? Mrs. Osbaldistone 

desired me to say how happy Ah 1 I can understand such 

feelings Certainly, certainly ; it is so much the shortest way 

to the town, that we elder ones always go through the stable- 
yard ; for young people, it is perhaps not quite so desirable. Ha 1 
Dixon," he continued, " on the watch for the Miss Ellinor we so 
often hear of ! This old man, " he continued to ElHnor, ' ' is never 
satisfied with the seat of our young ladies, always comparing 
their way of riding with that of a certain missy" 

" I cannot help it, sir ; they've quite a different style of hand, 
and sit all lumpish-hke. Now, Miss Ellinor, there " 

"Hush, Dixon," she said, suddenly aware of why the old 
servant was not popular with his mistress. " I suppose I may 
be allowed to ask for Dixon's company for an hour or so ; we 
have something to do together before we leave. " 

The consent given, the two walked away, as by previous 
appointment, to Hamley churchyard, where he was to point out 
to her the exact spot where he wished to be buried. Trampling 
over the long, rank grass, but avoiding passing directly over any 
of the thickly-strewn graves, he made straight for one spot — a 
little space of unoccupied ground close by, where Molly, the 
pretty scullery-maid, lay — 

Sacred to the Memory of 

Mary Greaves, 

Born 1797. Died 1818. 

"We part to meet again." 

" I put this stone up over her with my first savings," said he, 
looking at it ; and then, pulling out his knife, he began to clean 
out the letters. " I said then as I would lie by her. And it'll be 
a comfort to think you'll see me laid here. I trust no one'll be 
so crabbed as to take a fancy to this 'ere spot of ground." 

Ellinor grasped eagerly at the only pleasure which her money 
enabled her to give to the old man ; and promised him that she 
would take care and buy the right to that particular piece o^ 
ground. This was evidently a gratification Dixon had frequently 



A DARK night's WORK. I27 

yearned after ; he kept saying, " I'm greatly obleeged to ye, Miss 
Ellinor. I may say I'm truly obleeged." And when he saw 
them off by the coach the next day, his last words were, " I 
cannot justly say how greatly I'm obleeged to you for that matter 
of the churchyard." It was a much more easy affair to give 
Miss Monro some additional comforts ; she was as cheerful as 
ever ; still working away at her languages in any spare time, but 
confessing that she was tired of the perpetual teaching in which 
her life had been spent during the last thirty years. EUinor was 
now enabled to set her at liberty from this, and she accepted the 
kindness from her former pupil with as much simple gratitude as 
that with which a mother receives a favour from a child. " If 
Ellinor were but married to Canon Livingstone, I should be 
happier than I have ever been since my father died," she used to 
say to herself in the solitude of her bedchamber, for talking 
aloud had become her wont in the early years of her isolated life 
as a governess. " And yet," she went on, "I don't know what I 
should do without her ; it is lucky for me that things are not in 
my hands, for a pretty mess I should make of them, one way or 
another. Dear ! how old Mrs. Cadogan used to hate that word 
'mess,' and correct her granddaughters for using it right before 
my face, when I knew I had said it myself only the moment 
before ! Well ! those days are all over now. God be thanked ! ' 
In spite of being glad that "things were not in her hands," 
Miss Monro tried to take affairs into her charge by doing all she 
could to persuade Ellinor to allow her to invite the canon to their 
" little sociable teas." The most provoking part was, that she 
was sure he would have come if he had been asked ; but she. 
could never get leave to do so. " Of course no man could go on 
for ever and ever without encouragement," as she confided to 
herself in a plaintive tone of voice ; and by-and-by many people 
were led to suppose that the bachelor canon was paying attention 
to Miss Forbes, the eldest daughter of the family to which the 
delicate Jeanie belonged. It was, perhaps, with the Forbeses 
that both Miss Monro and Ellinor were the most intimate of all 
the families in East Chester. Mrs. Forbes was a widow lady of 
good means, with a large family of pretty, delicate daughters. 

She herself belonged to one of the great houses in shire, but 

had married into Scotland ; so, after her husband's death, it was 
the most natural thing in the world that she should settle in East 
(^hester ; and one afteranotherof her daughters had become first. 



128 A DARK night's WORK. 

Miss Monro's pupil and afterwards her friend. Mrs. Forbes her- 
self had always been strongly attracted by EUinor, but it was 
long before she could conquer the timid reserve by which Miss 
Wilkins was hedged round. It was Miss Monro, who was herself 
incapable of jealousy, who persevered in praising them to one 
another, and in bringing them together ; and now Ellinor was as 
intimate and familiar in Mrs. Forbes's household as she ever 
could be with any family not her own. 

Mrs. Forbes was considered to be a little fanciful as to illness ; 
but it was no wonder, remembering how many sisters she had 
lost by consumption. Miss Monro had often grumbled at the 
way in which her pupils were made irregular for very trifling 
causes. But no one so alarmed as she, when, in the autumn 
succeeding Mr. Ness's death, Mrs. Forbes remarked to her on 
EUinor's increased delicacy of appearance, and shortness of 
breathing. From that time forwards she worried Ellinor (if any 
one so sweet and patient could ever have been worried) with 
respirators and precautions. Ellinor submitted to all her friend's 
wishes and cares, sooner than make her anxious, and remained 
a prisoner in the house through the whole of November. Then 
Miss Monro's anxiety took another turn. EUinor's appetite and 
spirits failed her — not at all an unnatural consequence of so 
many weeks' confinement to the house. A plan was started, 
quite suddenly, one morning in December, that met with approval 
from every one but Ellinor, who was, however, by this time too 
languid to make much resistance. 

Mrs. Forbes and her daughters were going to Rome for three 
or four months, so as to avoid the trying east winds of spring ; 
why should not Miss Wilkins go with them? They urged it, 
and Miss Monro urged it, though with a little private sinking of 
the heart at the idea of the long separation from one who was 
almost like a child to her. Ellinor was, as it were, lifted off her 
feet and borne away by the unanimous opinion of others — the 
doctor included — who decided that such a step was highly de- 
sirable, if not absolutely necessary. She knew that she had only 
a life-interest both in her father's property and in that bequeathed 
to her by Mr. Ness. Hitherto she had not felt much trouble by 
this, as she had supposed that in the natural course of events 
she should survive Miss Monro and Dixon, both of whom she 
looked upon as dependent upon her. All she had to bequeath to 
the two was the small savings, which would not nearly suffice for 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 29 

both purposes, especially considering that Miss Monro had given 
up her teaching, and that both she and Dix6n were passing 
into years. 

Before Ellinor left England she had made every arrangement 
for the contingency of her death abroad that Mr. Johnson could 
suggest. She had written and sent a long letter to Dixon ; and 
a shorter one was left in charge of Canon Livingstone (she dared 
not hint at the possibility of her dying to Miss Monro) to be sent 
to the old man. 

As they drove out of the King's Cross station, they passed a 
gentleman's carriage entering. Ellinor saw a bright, handsome 
lady, a nurse, and baby inside, and a gentleman sitting by them 
whose face she could never forget. It was Mr. Corbet taking his 
wife and child to the railway. They were going on a Christmas 
visit to East Chester deanery. He had been leaning back, not 
noticing the passers-by, not attending to the other inmates of the 
carriage, probably absorbed in the consideration of some law case. 
Such were the casual glimpses EUinorhad of one with whose life 
she had once thought herself bound up. 

Who so proud as Miss Monro when a foreign letter came ? 
Her correspondent was not particularly graphic in her descrip- 
tions, nor were there any adventures to be described, nor was 
the habit of mind of Ellinor such as to make her clear and defi- 
nite in her own impressions of what she saw, and her natural 
reserve kept her from being fluent in communicating them even 
to Miss Monro. But that lady would have been pleased to read 
aloud these letters to the assembled dean and canons, and would 
not have been surprised if they had invited her to the chapter- 
house for that purpose. To her circle of untravelled ladies, 
ignorant of Murray, but laudably desirous of information, all 
Ellinor's historical reminiscences and rather formal details were 
really interesting. There was no railroad in those days between 
Lyons and Marseilles, so their progress was slow, and the passage 
of letters to and fro, when they had arrived in Rome, long and 
uncertain. But all seemed going on well. Ellinor spoke of 
herself as in better health ; and Canon Livingstone (between 
whom and Miss Monro great intimacy had sprung up since 
Ellinor had gone away, and Miss Monro could ask him to tea) 
confirmed this report of Miss Wilkins's health from a letter which 
he had received from Mrs. Forbes. Curiosity about that letter 
was Miss Monro's torment. What could they have had to write 



130 A DARK night's WORK. 

to each other about ? It was a very odd proceeding ; although 
the Livingstones and Forbeses were distantly related, after the 
manner of Scotland. Could it have been that he had offered to 
Euphemia, after all, and that her mother had answered ; or, pos- 
sibly, there was a letter from Efifie herself, enclosed. It 'was 
a pity for Miss Monro's peace of mind that she did not ask him 
straight a\^ay. She would then have learnt what Canon Living- 
stone had no thought of concealing, that Mrs. Forbes had written 
solely to give him some fuller directions about certain charities 
than she had had time to think about in the hurry of starting. 
As it was, and when, a little later on, she heard him speak of 
the possibiHty of his going himself to Rome, as soon as his term 
of residence was over, in time for the Carnival, she gave up her 
fond project in despair, and felt very much like a child whose 
house of bricks had been knocked down by the unlucky waft of 
some passing petticoat. 

Meanwhile, the entire change of scene brought on the exquisite 
refreshment of entire change of thought. Ellinor had not been 
able so completely to forget her past life for many years ; it was 
like a renewing of her youth ; cut so suddenly short by the 
shears of Fate. Ever since that night, she had had to rouse 
herself on awakening in the morning into a full comprehension 
of the great cause she had for much fear and heavy grief. Now, 
when she wakened in her Httle room, fourth piano, No. 36, 
Babuino, she saw the strange, pretty things around her, and 
her mind went off into pleasant wonder and conjecture, happy 
recollections of the day before, and pleasant anticipations of the 
day to come. Latent in Ellinor was her father's artistic tempera- 
ment ; everything new and strange was a picture and a dehght ; 
the merest group in the street, a Roman facchino, with his cloak 
draped over his shoulder, a girl going to market or carrying her 
pitcher back from the fountain, everything and every person 
that presented it or himself to her senses, gave them a delicious 
shock, as if it were something strangely familiar from Pinelh, but 
unseen by her mortal eyes before. She forgot her despondency, 
her ill-health disappeared as if by magic ; the Misses Forbes, 
who had taken the pensive, drooping invahd as a companion 
out of kindness of heart, found themselves amply rewarded by 
the sight of her amended health, and her keen enjoyment of 
everything, and the half-quaint, half- naive expressions of her 
pleasure. 



A DARK night's WORK. I3I 

So March came round ; Lent was late that year. The great 
nosegays of violets and camellias were for sale at the corner of 
the Condotti, and the revellers had no difficulty in procuring 
much rarer flowers for the belles of the Corso. The embassies 
had their balconies ; the attaches of the Russian Embassy threw 
their light and lovely presents at every pretty girl, or suspicion 
of a pretty girl, who passed slowly in her carriage, covered over 
with her white domino, and holding her wire mask as a pro- 
tection to her face from the showers of lime confetti, which 
otherwise would have been enough to blind her ; Mrs. Forbes 
had her own hired balcony, as became a wealthy and respect- 
able Englishwoman. The girls had a great basket full of 
bouquets with which to pelt their friends in the crowd below ; 
a store of moccoletti lay piled on the table behind, for it was the 
last day of Carnival, and as soon as dusk came on the tapers 
were to be lighted, to be as quickly extinguished by every means 
in every one's power. The crowd below was at its wildest pitch ; 
the rows of stately contadini alone sitting immovable as their 
possible ancestors, the senators who received Brennus and his 
Gauls. Masks and white dominoes, foreign gentlemen, and 
the riffraff of the city, slow-driving carriages, showers of flowers, 
most of them faded by this time, every one shouting and 
struggling at that wild pitch of excitement which may so soon 
turn into fury. The Forbes girls had given place at the window 
to their mother and ElHnor, who were gazing half amused, half 
terrified, at the mad parti-coloured movement below ; when a 
familiar face looked up, smiling a recognition ; and "Hew shall 
I get to you?" was asked in English, by the well-known voice 
of Canon Livingstone. They saw him disappear under the 
balcony on which they were standing, but it was some time 
before he made his appearance in their room. And when he 
did, he was almost overpowered with greetings ; so glad were 
they to see an East Chester face. 

^ " When did you come ? Where are you ? What a pity you 
did not come sooner ! It is so long since we have heard any- 
thing ; do tell us everything ! It is three weeks since we have 
had any letters ; those tiresome boats have been so irregular 
because of the weather." " How was everybody — Miss Monro 
in particular ? " Ellinor asks. 

' He, quietly smiling, replied to their questions by slow degrees. 
He had only arrived the night before, and had been hunting for 



132 A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 

them all day ; but no one could give him any distinct intel- 
ligence as to their whereabouts in all the noise and confusion 
of the place, especially as they had their only English servant 
with them, and the canon was not strong in his Italian. He 
was not sorry he had missed all but this last day of Carnival, 
for he was half blinded and wholly deafened, as it was. He 
was at the " Angleterre ; " he had left East Chester about a 
week ago ; he had letters for all of them, but had not dared 
to bring them through the crowd for fear of having his pocket 
picked. Miss Monro was very well, but very uneasy at not 
having heard from Ellinor for so long ; the irregularity of the 
boats must be teUing both ways, for their English friends were 
full of wonder at not hearing from Rome. And then followed 
some well-deserved abuse of the Roman post, and some suspicion 
of the carelessness with which Italian servants posted English 
letters. All these answers were satisfactory enough, yet Mrs. 
Forbes thought she saw a latent uneasiness in Canon Living- 
stone's manner, and fancied once or twice that he hesitated in 
replying to Ellinor's questions. But there was no being quite 
sure in the increasing darkness, which prevented countenances 
from being seen ; nor in the constant interruptions and screams 
which were going on in the small crowded room, as wafting 
handkerchiefs, puffs of wind, or veritable extinguishers, fastened 
to long sticks, and coming from nobody knew where, put out 
taper after taper as fast as they were lighted. 

"You will come home with us," said Mrs. Forbes. " I can 
only offer you cold meat with tea ; our cook is gone out, this 
being a universal festa ; but we cannot part with an old friend 
for any scruples as to the commissariat." 

"Thank yoti. I should have invited myself if you had not 
been good enough to ask me." 

When they had all arrived at their apartment in the Babuino 
(Canon Livingstone had gone round to fetch the letters with 
which he was intrusted), Mrs. Forbes was confirmed in her 
supposition that he had something particular and not very 
pleasant to say to Ellinor, by the rather grave and absent 
manner in which he awaited her return from taking off her 
out-of-door things. He broke off, indeed, in his conversa- 
tion with Mrs. Forbes to go and meet EUinor, and to lead 
her into the most distant window before he delivered her 
letters. 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 33 

" From what you said in the balcony yonder, I fear you have 
not received your home letters regularly?" 

" No ! " replied she, startled and trembling, she hardly knew 
why. 

" No more has Miss Monro heard from you ; nor, I believe, 
has some one else who expected to hear. Your man of business 
— I forget his name." 

"My man of business! Something has gone wrong, Mr. 
Livingstone. Tell me — I want to know. I have been ex- 
pecting it — only tell me." She sat down suddenly, as white 
as ashes. 

"Dear Miss Wilkins, I'm afraid it is painful enough, but 
you are fancying it worse than it is. All your friends are 
quite well ; but an old servant " 

" Well ! " she said, seeing his hesitation, and leaning forwards 
and griping at his arm. 

" Is taken up on a charge of manslaughter or murder. Oh ! 
Mrs. Forbes, come here ! " 

For Ellinor had fainted, falling forwards on the arm she had 
held. When she came round she was lying half undressed on 
her bed ; they were giving her tea in spoonfuls. 

" I must get up," she moaned. " I must go home." 

"You must lie still," said Mrs. Forbes firmly. 

"You don't know. I must go home," she repeated; and 
she tried to sit up, but fell back helpless. Then she did not 
speak, but lay and thought. "Will you bring me some 
meat?" she whispered. "And some wine?" They brought 
her meat and wine ; she ate, though she was choking. " Now, 
please, bring me my letters, and leave me alone ; and after 
that I should like to speak to Canon Livingstone. Don't let 
him go, please. I won't be long — half-an-hour, I think. 
Only let me be alone." 

There was a hurried feverish sharpness in her tone that made 
Mrs. Forbes very anxious, but she judged it best to comply with 
her requests. 

The letters were brought, the lights were arranged so that 
she could read them lying on her bed; and they left her. 
Then she got up and stood on her feet, dizzy enough, her 
arms clasped at the top of her head, her eyes dilated and 
staring as if looking at some great horror. But after a few 
minutes she sat down suddenly, and began to read. Letters 



134 A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 

were evidently missing". Some had been sent by an opportunity 
that had been delayed on the journey, and had not yet arrived 
in Rome. Others had been despatched by the post, but the 
severe weather, the unusual snow, had, in those days, before 
the railway was made between Lyons and Marseilles, put a stop 
to many a traveller's plans, and had rendered the transmission 
of the mail extremely uncertain ; so, much of that intelli- 
gence which Miss Monro had evidently considered as certain 
to be known to Ellinor was entirely matter of conjecture, and 
could only be guessed at from what was told in these letters. 
One was from Mr. Johnson, one from Mr. Brown, one from 
Miss Monro ; of course the last-mentioned was the first read. 
She spoke of the shock of the discovery of Mr. Dunster's 
body, found in the cutting of the new line of railroad from 
Hamley to the nearest railway station ; the body so hastily 
buried long ago, in its clothes, by which it was now recognised 
— a recognition confirmed by one or two more personal and 
indestructible things, such as his watch and seal with his 
initials ; of the shock to every one, the Osbaldistones in parti- 
cular, on the further discovery of a fleam or horse-lancet, 
having the name of Abraham Dixon engraved en the handle ; 
how Dixon had gone on Mr. Osbaldistone's business to a 
horse-fair in Ireland some weeks before this, and had had his 
leg broken by a kick from an unruly mare, so that he was 
barely able to move about when the officers of justice went 
to apprehend him in Tralee. 

At this point Ellinor cried out loud and shrill. 

" Oh, Dixon ! Dixon ! and I was away enjoying myself." 

They heard her cry, and came to the door, but it was bolted 
inside. 

"Please, go away," she said; "please, go. I will be very 
quiet ; only, please, go." 

She could not bear just then to read any more of Miss Monro's 
letter ; she tore open Mr. Johnson's — the date was a fortnight 
earlier than Miss Monro's ; he also expressed his wonder at not 
hearing from her, in reply to his letter of January 9 ; but he 
added, that he thought that her trustees had judged rightly ; the 
handsome sum the railway company had offered for the land 
when their surveyor decided on the alteration of the line, Mr. 
Osbaldistone, &c. &c. She could not read any more ; it was 
Fate pursuing her. Then she took the letter up again and tried 



A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 1 35 

to read ; but all that reached her understanding was the fact 
that Mr. Johnson had sent his present - letter to Miss Monro, 
thinking that she might know of some private opportunity safer 
than the post. Mr. Brown's was just such a letter as he 
occasionally sent her from time to time ; a correspondence that 
arose out of their mutual regard for their dead friend Mr. Ness. 
It, too, had been sent to Miss Monro to direct. Ellinor was on 
the point of putting it aside entirely, when the name of Corbet 
caught her eye : "You will be interested to hear that the old 
pupil of our departed friend, who was so anxious to obtain the 
folio Virgil with the Italian notes, is appointed the new judge 
in room of Mr. Justice Jenkin. At least I conclude that Mr. 
Ralph Corbet, Q.C., is the same as the Virgil fancier." 

"Yes," said Ellinor bitterly; "he judged well; it would 
never have done," They were the first words of anything like 
reproach which she ever formed in her own mind during all 
these years. She thought for a few moments of the old times ; 
it seemed to steady her brain to think of them. Then she took 
up and finished Miss Monro's letter. That excellent friend had 
done all which she thought Elhnor would have wished without 
delay. She had written to Mr. Johnson, and charged him to 
do everything he could to defend Dixon, and to spare no expense. 
She was thinking of going to the prison in the county town, to 
see the old man herself, but Ellinor could perceive that all these 
endeavours and purposes of Miss Monro's were based on love 
for her own pupil, and a desire to set her mind at ease as far as 
she could, rather than from any idea that Dixon himself could 
be innocent. Ellinor put down the letters, and went to the door, 
then turned back, and locked them up in her writing-case with 
trembling hands ; and after that she entered the drawing-room, 
looking liker to a ghost than to a living woman. 

" Can I speak to you for a minute alone ? " Her still, tune- 
less voice made the words into a command. Canon Living- 
stone arose and followed her into the little dining-room. " Will 
you tell me all you know — all you have heard about my — you 
know what?" 

' ' Miss Monro was my informant — at least at first — it was in 
the Times the day before I left. Miss Monro says it could only 
^have been done in a moment of anger if the old servant is really 
guilty ; that he was as steady and good a man as she ever knew, 
and she seems to have a strong feeling against Mr. Dunster, as 



136 A DARK night's WORK. 

always giving your father much unnecessary trouble ; in fact, 
she hints that his disappearance at the time was supposed to be 
the cause of a considerable loss of property to Mr. Wilkins." 

" No ! " said Ellinor eagerly, feeling that some justice ought 
to be done to the dead man , and then she stopped short, fear- 
ful of saying anything that should betray her full knowledge. 
"I mean this," she went on; "Mr. Dunster was a very dis- 
agreeable man personally — and papa — we none of us liked him ; 
but he was quite honest — please remember that." 

The canon bowed, and said a few acquiescing words. He 
waited for her to speak again. 

" Miss Monro says she is going to see Dixon in " 

" Oh, Mr. Livingstone, I can't bear it ! " 

He let her alone, looking at her pitifully, as she twisted 
and wrung her hands together in her endeavour to regain the 
quiet manner she had striven to maintain through the interview. 
She looked up at him with a poor attempt at an apologetic 
smile — 

" It is so terrible to think of that good old man in prison ! " 

" You do not believe him guilty ! " said Canon Livingstone, in 
some surprise. " I am afraid, from all I heard and read, there 
is but little doubt that he did kill the man ; I trust in some 
moment of irritation, with no premeditated malice." 

EUinor shook her head. 

"How soon can I get to England?" asked she. "I must 
start at once." 

" Mrs. Forbes sent out while you were lying down. I am 
afraid there is no boat to Marseilles till Thursday, the day after 
to-morrow." 

" But I must go sooner ! " said Ellinor, starting up. " I must 
go ; please help me. He may be tried before I can get there ! " 

"Alas ! I fear that will be the case, whatever haste you make. 
The trial was to come on at the Hellingford Assizes, and that 
town stands first on the Midland Circuit list. To-day is the 
27th of February ; the assizes begin on the 7th of March." 

" I will start to-morrow morning early for Civita ; there may 
be a boat there they do not know of here. At any rate, I shall 
be on my way. If he dies, I must die too. Oh ! I don't know 
what I am saying, I am so utterly crushed down ! It would be 
such a kindness if you would go away, and let no one come to 
me, I know Mrs. Forbes is so good, she will forgive me. I 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 37 

will say good-bye to you all before I go to-morrow morning ; but 
I must think now." 

For one moment he stood looking at her as if he longed to 
comfort her by more words. He thought better of it, however, 
and silently left the room. 

For a long time Ellinor sat still ; now and then taking up Miss 
Monro's letter, and re-reading the few terrible details. Then 
she bethought her that possibly the canon might have brought 
a copy of the Times, containing the examination of Dixon before 
the magistrates, and she opened the door and called to a pass- 
ing servant to make the inquiry. She was quite right in her 
conjecture ; Dr. Livingstone had had the paper in his pocket 
during his interview with her ; but he thought the evidence so 
cotrclusive, that the perusal of it would only be adding to her 
extreme distress by accelerating the conviction of Dixon's guilt, 
which he believed she must arrive at sooner or later. 

He had been reading the report over with Mrs. Forbes and 
her daughters, after his return from Ellinor's room, and they 
were all participating in his opinion upon it, when her request 
for the Times was brought. They had reluctantly agreed, saying 
there did not appear to be a shadow of doubt on the fact of 
Dixon's having killed Mr. Dunster, only hoping there might 
prove to be some extenuating circumstances, which Ellinor had 
probably recollected, and which she was desirous of producing 
on the approaching trial. 



CHAPTER Xni. 

Ellinor, having read the report of Dixon's examination in the 
newspaper, bathed her eyes and forehead in cold water, and 
tried to still her poor heart's beating, that she might be clear 
and collected enough to weigh the evidence. 

Every line of it was condemnatory. One or two witnesses spoke 
of Dixon's unconcealed dislike of Dunster, a dishke which Ellinor 
knew had been entertained by the old servant out of a species 
of loyalty to his master, as well as from personal distaste. The 
fl^am was proved beyond all doubt to be Dixon's ; and a man, 
who had been stable-boy in Mr. Wilkins's service, swore that on 
the day when Mr. Dunster was missed, and when the whole 

E 2 



138 * A DARK night's WORK. 

town was wondering what had become of him, a certain colt of 
Mr Wilkins's had needed bleeding, and that he had been sent by 
Dixon to the farrier's for a horse-lancet, an errand which he had 
remarked upon at the time, as he knew that Dixon had a fleam 
of his own. 

Mr. Osbaldistone was examined. He kept interrupting him- 
self perpetually to express his surprise at the fact of so steady 
and well-conducted a man as Dixon being guilty of so heinous 
a crime, and was willing enough to testify to the excellent 
character which he had borne during all the many years he had 
been in his (Mr. Osbaldistone's) service ; but he appeared to be 
quite convinced by the evidence previously given of the prisoner's 
guilt in the matter, and strengthened the case against him 
materially by stating the circumstance of the old man's dogged 
unwillingness to have the shghtest interference by cultivation with 
that particular piece of ground. 

Here EUinor shuddered. Before her, in that Roman bed- 
chamber, rose the fatal oblong she knew by heart — a little green 
moss or lichen, and thinly-growing blades of grass scarcely cover- 
ing the caked and undisturbed soil under the old tree. Oh, that 
she had been in England when the surveyors of the railway 
between Ashcombe and Hamley had altered their hue ; she 
would have entreated, implored, compelled her trustees not to 
have sold that piece of ground for any sum of money whatever. 
She would have bribed the surveyors, done she knew not what 
— but now it was too late ; she would not let her mind wander 
off to what might have been ; she would force herself again to 
attend to the newspaper columns. There was little more : the 
prisoner had been asked if he could say anything to clear him- 
self, and properly cautioned not to say anything to incriminate 
himself. The poor old man's person was described, and his 
evident emotion. " The prisoner was observed to clutch at the 
rail before him to steady himself, and his colour changed so 
much at this part of the evidence that one of the turnkeys offered 
him a glass of water, which he declined. He is a man of a 
strongly-built frame, and with rather a morose and sullen cast 
of countenance." 

" My poor, poor Dixon ! " said Ellinor, laying down the paper 
for an instant, and she was near crying, only she had resolved to 
shed no tears till she had finished all, and could judge of the 
chances. There were but a few lines more : "At one time the 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 39 

prisoner seemed to be desirous of alleging something in his 
defence, but he changed his mind, if such had been the case, 
and in reply to Mr. Gordon (the magistrate) he only said, 
' You've made a pretty strong case but again me, gentlemen, 
and it seems for to satisfy you ; so I think I'll not disturb your 
minds by saying anything more.' Accordingly, Dixon now 
stands committed for trial for murder at the next Hellingford 
Assizes, which commence on March the seventh, before Baron 
Rushton and Mr. Justice Corbet." 

"Mr. Justice Corbet!" The words ran through Ellinor as 
though she had been stabbed with a knife, and by an irrepres- 
sible movement she stood up rigid. The young man, her lover 
in her youth, the old servant who in those days was perpetually 
about her — the two who had so often met in familiar if not 
friendly relations, now to face each other as judge and accused ! 
She could not tell how much Mr. Corbet had conjectured from 
the partial revelation she had made to him of the impending 
shame that hung over her and hers. A day or two ago she 
could have remembered the exact words she had used in that 
memorable interview ; but now, strive as she would, she could 
only recall facts, not words. After all, the Mr. Justice Corbet 
might not be Ralph. There was one chance in a hundred 
against the identity of the two. 

While she was weighing probabilities in her sick dizzy mind, 
she heard soft steps outside her bolted door, and low voices 
whispering. It was the bedtime of happy people with hearts at 
ease. Some of the footsteps passed lightly on ; but there was a 
gentle rap at Ellinor's door. She pressed her two hot hands 
hard against her temples for an instant before she went to open 
the door. There stood Mrs. Forbes in her handsome evening 
dress, holding a lighted lamp in her hand. 

"May I come in, my dear?" she asked. Ellinor's stiff dry 
lips refused to utter the words of assent which indeed did not 
come readily from her heart. 

" I am so grieved at this sad news which the canon brings. I 
can well understand what a shock it must be to you ; we have 
Just been saying it must be as bad for you as it would be to us 
if our old Donald should turn out to have been a hidden mur- 
derer all these years that he has lived with us ; I really could 
have as soon suspected Donald as that white-haired respectable 
old man who used to come and see you at East Chester," 



I40 A DARK night's WORK. 

Ellinor felt that she must say something. "It is a terrible 
shock— poor old man ! and no friend near him, even Mr, 
Osbaldistone giving evidence against him. Oh, dear, dear, why- 
did I ever come to Rome ? " 

"Now, my dear, you must not let yourself take an exagge- 
rated view of the case. Sad and shocking as it is to have been 
so deceived, it is what happens to many of us, though not to so 
terrible a degree ; and as to your coming to Rome having 
anything to do with it " 

(Mrs. Forbes almost smiled at the idea, so anxious was she 
to banish the idea of self-reproach from EUinor's sensitive 
mind, but Ellinor interrupted her abruptly — ) 

" Mrs. Forbes ! did he — did Canon Livingstone tell you that 
I m.ust leave to-morrow? I must go to England as fast as 
possible to do what I can for Dixon." 

"Yes, he told us you were thinking of it, and it was partly 
that made me force myself in upon you to-night. I think, my 
love, you are mistaken in feeling as if you were called upon to 
do more than what the canon tells me Miss Monro has already 
done in your name — engaged the best legal advice, and spared 
no expense to give the suspected man every chance. What 
could you do more even if you were on the spot? And it is very 
possible that the trial may have come on before you get home. 
Then what could you do ? He would either have been acquitted 
or condemned ; if the former, he would find pubHc sympathy all 
in his favour ; it always is for the unjustly accused. And if he 
turns out to be guilty, my dear Ellinor, it will be far better for 
you to have all the softening which distance can give to such a 
dreadful termination to the life of a poor man whom you have 
respected so long." 

But Ellinor spoke again with a kind of irritated determination, 
very foreign to her usual soft dociHty — 

" Please just let me judge for myself this once. I am not un- 
grateful. God knows I don't want to vex one who has been 
so kind to me as you have been, dear Mrs. Forbes ; but I must 
go — and every word you say to dissuade me only makes me 
more convinced. I am going to Civita to-morrow. I shall be 
that much on the way. I cannot rest here." 

Mrs. Forbes looked at her in grave silence. Elhnor could 
not bear the consciousness of that fixed gaze. Yet its fixity 
only arose from Mrs. Forbes' perplexity as to how best to 



A DARK night's WORK. I4! 

assist Ellinor, whether to restrain her, by further advice — of 
which the first dose had proved so useless — or to speed her 
departure. Ellinor broke in on her meditations — 

"You have always been so kind and good to me — go on 
being so — please, do ! Leave me alone now, dear Mrs. Forbes, 
for I cannot bear talking about it, and help me to go to-morrow, 
and you do not know how I will pray to God to bless you ! " 

Such an appeal was irresistible. Mrs. Forbes kissed her very 
tenderly, and went to rejoin her daughters, who were clustered 
together in their mother's bedroom awaiting her coming. 

"Well, mamma, how is she? What does she say? " 

" She is in a very excited state, poor thing ! and has got so 
strong an impression that it is her duty to go back to England 
and do all she can for this wretched old man, that I am afraid 
we must not oppose her. I am afraid that she really must go 
on Thursday." 

Although Mrs. Forbes secured the services of a travelling- 
maid. Dr. Livingstone insisted on accompanying Ellinor to 
England, and it would have required more energy than she 
possessed at this time to combat a resolution which both words 
and manner expressed as determined. She would much rather 
have travelled alone with her maid ; she did not feel the need 
of the services he offered ; but she was utterly listless and broken 
down ; all her interest was centred in the thought of Dixon and 
his approaching trial, and perplexity as to the mode in which 
she must do her duty. 

They embarked late that evening in the tardy Santa Iiicia, 
and Ellinor immediately went to her berth. She was not sea- 
sick ; that might possibly have lessened her mental sufferings, 
which all night long tormented her. High-pe. :hed in an upper 
berth, she did not like disturbing the other occupants of the 
cabin till dayhght appeared. Then she descended and dressed, 
and went on deck ; the vessel was just passing the rocky coast 
of Elba, and the sky was flushed with rosy light, that made the 
shadows on the island of the most exquisite purple. The sea 
still heaved with yesterday's storm, but the motion only added 
to the beauty of the sparkles and white foam that dimpled 
and curled on the blue waters. The air was delicious, after 
the closeness of the cabin, and Ellinor only wondered that more 
people were not on deck to enjoy it. One or two stragglers 
came up, time after time, and began pacing the deck. Dr. 



142 A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 

Livingstone came up before very long ; but he seemed to have 
made a rule of not obtruding himself on Ellinor, excepting 
when he could be of some use. After a few words of common- 
place morning greeting, he, too, began to walk backwards and 
forwards, while Ellinor sat quietly watching the lovely island 
receding fast from her view — a beautiful vision never to be seen 
again by her mortal eyes. 

Suddenly there was a shock and stound all over the vessel, 
her progress was stopped, and a rocking vibration was felt 
everywhere. The quarter-deck was filled with blasts of steam, 
which obscured everything. Sick people came rushing up out 
of their berths in strange undress ; the steerage passengers — 
a motley and picturesque set of people, in many varieties of 
gay costume — took refuge on the quarter-deck, speaking loudly 
in all varieties of French and Italian patois. Ellinor stood 
up in silent, wondering dismay. Was the Santa LiLcia going 
down on the great deep, and Dixon unaided in his peril? Dr. 
Livingstone was by her side in a moment. She could scarcely 
see him for the vapour, nor hear him for the roar of the escap- 
ing steam. 

"Do not be unnecessarily frightened," he repeated, a little 
louder. "Some accident has occurred to the engines. I will 
go and make instant inquiry, and come back to you as soon as 
I can. Trust to me." 

He came back to where she sat trembling. 

"A part of the engine is broken, through the carelessness of 
these Neapolitan engineers ; they say we must make for the 
nearest port — return to Civita, in fact." 

" But Elba is not many miles away," said Ellinor. " If this 
steam were but away, you could see it still." 

"And if we were landed there we might stay on the island 
for many days ; no steamer touches there ; but if we return to 
Civita, we shall be in time for the Sunday boat." 

"Oh, dear, dear!" said Ellinor. "To-day is the second — 
Sunday will be the fourth — the assizes begin on the seventh ; 
how miserably unfortunate ! " 

"Yes ! " he said, " it is. And these things always appear so 
doubly unfortunate when they hinder our serving others ! But 
it does not follow that because the assizes begin at Hellingford 
on the seventh, Dixon's trial will come on so soon. We may 
still get to Marseilles on Monday evening ; on by diligence ta 



A DARK night's WORK. I43 

Lyons ; it will — it must, I fear, be Thursday, at the earliest, 
before we reach Paris — Thursday, the eighth — and I suppose 
you know of some exculpatory evidence that has to be hunted 
up?" 

He added this unwillingly ; for he saw that Ellinor was jealous 
of the secrecy she had hitherto maintained as to her reasons for 
believing Dixon innocent ; but he could not help thinking that 
she, a gentle, timid woman, unaccustomed to action or business, 
would require some of the assistance which he would have been 
so thankful to give her ; especially as this untoward accident 
would increase the press of time in which what was to be done 
would have to be done. 

But no. Ellinor scarcely replied to his half-inquiry as to her 
reasons for hastening to England. She yielded to all his direc- 
tions, agreed to his plans, but gave him none of her confidence, 
and he had to submit to this exclusion from sympathy in the 
exact causes of her anxiety. 

Once more in the dreary sala, with the gaudy painted ceiling, 
the bare dirty floor, the innumerable rattling doors and windows t 
Ellinor was submissive and patient in demeanour, because so 
sick and despairing at heart. Her maid was ten times as demon- 
strative of annoyance and disgust ; she who had no particular 
reason for wanting to reach England, but who thought it became 
her dignity to make it seem as though she had. 

At length the weary time was over ; and again they sailed past 
Elba, and arrived at Marseilles. Now Ellinor began to feel how 
much assistance it was to her to have Dr. Livingstone for a 
" courier," as he had several times called himself. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

* ' Where now ? " said the canon, as they approached the London 
Bridge station. 

" To the Great Western," said she ; " Hellingford is on that 
line, I see. But, please, now we must part." 

" Then I may not go with you to Hellingford? At any rate, 
, you will allow me to go with you to the railway station, and do 
my last office as courier in getting you your ticket and placing 
you in the carriage." 



144 A DARK night's WORK. 

So they went together to the station, and learnt that no train 
was leaving for Hellingford for two hours. There was nothing 
for it but to go to the hotel close by, and pass aw^ay the time as 
best they could. 

Ellinor called for her maid's accounts, and dismissed her. Some 
refreshment that the canon had ordered was eaten, and the table 
cleared. He began walking up and down the room, his arms 
folded, his eyes cast down. Every now and then he looked at 
the clock on the mantelpiece. When that showed that it only 
wanted a quarter of an hour to the time appointed for the train 
to start, he came up to Ellinor, who sat leaning her head upon 
her hand, her hand resting on the table. 

" Miss Wilkins," he began — and there was something peculiar 
in his tone which startled Ellinor — "I am sure you will not 
scruple to apply to me if in any possible way I can help you in 
this sad trouble of yours?" 

' ' No, indeed I won't ! " said Ellinor gratefully, and putting out 
her hand as a token. He took it, and held it ; she went on, a 
little more hastily than before : " You know you were so good as 
to say you would go at once and see Miss Monro, and tell her all 
you know, and that I will write to her as soon as I can." 

" May I not ask for one line?" he continued, still holding her 
hand. 

" Certainly : so kind a friend as you shall hear all I can tell ; 
that is, all I am at liberty to tell." 

"A friend ! Yes, I am a friend ; and I will not urge any 
other claim just now. Perhaps " 

Ellinor could not affect to misunderstand him. His mamier 
implied even more than his words. 

'• No ! " she said eagerly. " We are friends. That is it. I 
think we shall always be friends, though I will tell you now — 
something — this much — it is a sad secret. God help me ! I am 
as guilty as poor Dixon, if, indeed, he is guilty — but he is 
innocent — indeed he is ! " 

" If he is no more guilty than you, I am sure he is ! Let me 
be more than your friend, Ellinor — let me know all, and help 
you all that I can, with the right of an affianced husband." 

" No, no ! " said she, frightened both at what she bad revealed, 
and his eager, warm, imploring manner. "That can never be. 
You do not know the disgrace that may be hanging over me." 

" If that is all," said he, "I take my risk — if that is all — if you 



A DARK night's WORK. I45 

only fear that I may shrink from sharing any peril you may be 
exposed to." 

" It is not peril — it is shame and obloquy " she m.urmured. 

" Well ! shame and obloquy. Perhaps, if I knew all, I could 
shield you from it." 

" Don't, pray, speak any more about it now ; if you do, I must 
say 'No.'" 

She did not perceive the implied encouragement in these 
words ; but he did, and they sufficed to make him patient. 

The time was up, and he could only render her his last 
services as "courier," and none other but the necessary words 
at starting passed between them. 

But he went away from the station with a cheerful heart ; 
while she, sitting alone and quiet, and at last approaching near 
to the place where so much was to be decided, felt sadder and 
sadder, heavier and heavier. 

All the intelligence she had gained since she had seen the 
Galignani in Paris, had been from the waiter at the Great 
Western Hotel, who, after returning from a vain search for an 
unoccupied Times, had volunteered the information that there 
was an unusual demand for the paper because of Hellingford 
Assizes, and the trial there for murder that was going on. 

There was no electric telegraph in those days ; at every station 
Ellinor put her head out, and inquired if the murder trial at 
HeUingford was ended. Some porters told her one thing, some 
another, in their hurry ; she felt that she could not rely on them, 

" Drive to Mr. Johnson's in the High Street — quick, quick. I 
will give you half-a-crown if you will go quick." 

For, indeed, her endurance, her patience, was strained almost 
to snapping ; yet at HeUingford station, where doubtless they 
could have told her the truth, she dared not ask the question. 
It was past eight o'clock at night. In many houses in the Httle 
country town there were unusual lights and sounds. The in- 
habitants were showing their hospitality to such of the strangers 
brought by the assizes, as were lingering there now that the busi- 
ness which had drawn them was over. The judges had left the 
town that afternoon, to wind up the circuit by the short list of a 
neighbouring county town. 

, Mr. Johnson was entertaining a dinner-party of attorneys when 
he was summoned from dessert by the announcement of a " lady 
who wanted to speak to him immediate and particular." 



14-6 A DARK night's WORK. 

He went into his study in not the best of tempers. There he 
found his dient, IMiss Wilkins, white and ghastly, standing by 
the fireplace, with her eyes fixed on the door. 

" It is you, Miss Wilkins ! I am very glad " 

" Dixon ! " said she. It was all she could utter. 

Mr. Johnson shook his head. 

"Ah; that's a sad piece of business, and I'm afraid it has 
shortened your visit at Rome." 

" Is he" 

"Ay, I'm afraid there's no doubt of his guilt. At any rate, 
the jury found him guilty, and" 

"And ! " she repeated quickly, sitting down, the better to hear 
the words that she knew were coming — 

" He is condemned to death." 

"When?" 

" The Saturday but one after the judges left the town, I sup- 
pose — it's the usual time." 

"Who tried him?" 

"Judge Corbet; and, for a new judge, I must say I never 
knew one who got through his business so well. It was really 
as much as I could stand to hear him condemning the prisoner 
to death. Dixon was undoubtedly guilty, and he was as stubborn 
as could be — a sullen old fellow who would let no one help him 
through. I'm sure I did my best for him at Miss Monro's desire 
and for your sake. But he would furnish me with no particulars, 
help us to no evidence. I had the hardest work to keep him 
from confessing all before witnesses, who would have been 
bound to repeat it as evidence against him. Indeed, I never 
thought he would have pleaded ' Not Guilty.' I think it was only 
with a desire to justify himself in the eyes of some old Hamley 
acquaintances. Good God, Miss Wilkins ! What's the matter? 
You're not fainting ! " He rang the bell till the rope remained 
in his hands. " Here, Esther ! Jerry ! Whoever you are, come 
quick ! Miss Wilkins has fainted ! Water ! Wine ! Tell Mrs. 
Johnson to come here directly ! " 

Mrs. Johnson, a kind, motherly woman, who had been ex- 
cluded from the "gentlemen's dinner-party," and had devoted 
her time to superintending the dinner her husband had ordered, 
came in answer to his call for assistance, and found EUinor lying 
back in her chair white and senseless. 

" Bessy, Miss Wilkins has fainted ; she has had a long journey, 



A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 147 

and is in a fidget about Dixon, the old fellow who was sentenced 
to be hung for that murder, you know. I can't stop here, I must 
go back to those men. You bring her round, and see her to bed. 
The blue room is empty since Horner left. She must stop here, 
and I'll see her in the morning. Take care of her, and keep her 
mind as easy as you can, will you, for she can do no good by 
fidgeting," 

And, knowing that he left Ellinor in good hands, and with 
plenty of assistance about her, he returned to his friends. 

Ellinor came to herself before long. 

'* It was very foolish of me, but I could not help it," said she 
apologetically. 

*' No ; to be sure not, dear. Here, drink this ; it is some of 
Mr. Johnson's best port wine that he has sent out on purpose for 
you. Or would you rather have some white soup — or what? 
We've had everything you could think of for dinner, and you've 
only to ask and have. And then you must go to bed, my dear 
— Mr. Johnson says you must ; and there's a well-aired room, 
for Mr. Horner only left us this morning," 

" I must see Mr. Johnson again, please." 

" But indeed you must not. You must not worry your poor 
head with business now ; and Johnson would only talk to you on 
business. No ; go to bed, and sleep soundly, and then you'll 
get up quite bright and strong, and fit to talk about business." 

" I cannot sleep — I cannot rest till I have asked Mr. Johnson 
one or two more questions ; indeed I cannot," pleaded Ellinor. 

Mrs. Johnson knew that her husband's orders on such occasions 
were peremptory, and that she should come in for a good con- 
jugal scolding if, after what he had said, she ventured to send 
for him again. Yet Ellinor looked so entreating and wistful 
that she could hardly find in her heart to refuse her. A bright 
thought struck her. 

" Here is pen and paper, my dear. Could you not write the 
questions you wanted to ask? and he'll just jot down the 
answers upon the same piece of paper. I'll send it in by Jerry. 
He has got friends to dinner with him, you see." 

EUinor yielded. She sat, resting her weary head on her hand, 
and wondering what were the questions which would have come 
so readily to her tongue could she have been face to face with 
him. As it was, she only wrote this — 

"How early can I see you to-morrow morning? Will you 



148 A DARK night's WORK. 

take all the necessary steps for my going to Dixon as soon as 
possible? Could I be admitted to him to-night?" 

The pencilled answers were — 

" Eight o'clock. Yes. No." 

" I suppose he knows best," said Ellinor, sighing, as she read 
the last word. " But it seems wicked in me to be going to bed 
— and he so near, in prison." 

When she rose up and stood, she felt the former dizziness 
return, and that reconciled her to seeking rest before she entered 
upon the duties which were becoming clearer before her, now 
that she knew all and was on the scene of action. Mrs. Johnson 
brought her white-wine whey instead of the tea she had asked 
for ; and perhaps it was owing to this that she slept so soundly. 



CHAPTER XV. 

When Ellinor awoke the clear light of dawn was fully in the 
room. She could not remember where she was ; for so many 
mornings she had wakened up in strange places that it took her 
several minutes before she could make out the geographical 
whereabouts of the heavy blue m.oreen curtains, the print of the 
lordheutenant of the county on the wall, and all the handsome 
ponderous mahogany furniture that stuffed up the room. As 
soon as full memory came into her mind, she started up ; nor 
did she go to bed again, although she saw by her watch on the 
dressing-table that it was not yet six o'clock. She dressed her- 
self with the dainty completeness so habitual to her that it had 
become an unconscious habit, and then — the instinct was irre- 
pressible — she put on her bonnet and shawl, and went down, 
past the servant on her knees cleaning the doorstep, out into the 
fresh open air ; and so she found her way down the High Street 
to Hellingford Castle, the building in which the courts of assize 
were held — the prison in which Dixon lay condemned to die. 
She almost knew she could not see him ; yet it seemed like some 
amends to her conscience for having slept through so many hours 
of the night if she made the attempt. She went up to the 
porter's lodge, and asked the httle girl sweeping out the place if 
she might see Abraham Dixon. The child stared at her, and 
ran into the house, bringing out her father, a great burly man, 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 49 

who had not yet donned either coat or waistcoat, and who, 
consequently, felt the morning air as rather nipping. To him 
Ellinor repeated her question. 

"Him as is to be hung come Saturday se'nnight? Why, 
ma'am, I've nought to do with it. You may go to the governor's 
house and try ; but, if you'll excuse me, you'll have your walk 
for your pains. Them in the condemned cells is never seen 
by nobody without the sheriff's order. You may go up to 
the governor's house and welcome ; but they'll only tell you the 
same. Yon's the governor's house." 

Ellinor fully believed the man, and yet she went on to the 
house indicated, as if she still hoped that in her case there 
might be some exception to the rule, which she now remembered 
to have heard of before, in days when such a possible desire as 
to see a condemned prisoner was treated by her as a wish that 
some people might have, did have — people as far removed from^ 
her circle of circumstances as the inhabitants of the moon. Of 
course she met with the same reply, a little more abruptly given, 
as if every man was from his birth bound to know such an 
obvious regulation. 

She went out past the porter, now fully clothed. He was sorry 
for her disappointment, but could not help saying, with a slight 
tone of exultation, " Well, you see I was right, ma'am ! " 

She walked as nearly round the castle as ever she could, look- 
ing up at the few high-barred windows she could see, and 
wondering in what part of the building Dixon was confined. 
Then she went into the adjoining churchyard, and sitting down 
upon a tombstone, she gazed idly at the view spread below her 
— a view which was considered as the lion of the place, to be 
shown to all strangers by the inhabitants of Hellingford. EUinor 
did not see it, however ; she only saw the blackness of that 
fatal night, the hurried work — the lanterns glancing to and fro* 
She only heard the hard breathing of those who are engaged 
upon unwonted labour ; the few hoarse muttered v/ords ; the 
swaying of the branches to and fro. All at once the church 
clock above her struck eight, and then pealed out for distant 
labourers to cease their work for a time. Such was the old 
custom of the place. Ellinor rose up, and made her way back 
to Mr. Johnson's house in High Street. The room felt close 
and confined in which she awaited her interview with Mr. 
Johnson, who had sent down an apology for having overslept 



150 A DARK night's WORK. 

himself, and at last made his appearance in a hurried half- 
awakened state, in consequence of his late hospitality of the 
night before. 

" I am so sorry I gave you all so much trouble last night," 
said Ellinor apologetically. "I was over-tired, and much 
shocked by the news I heard." 

" No trouble, no trouble, I am sure. Neither Mrs. Johnson 
nor I felt it in the least a trouble. Many ladies I know feel such 
things very trying, though there are others that can stand a 
judge's putting on the black cap better than most men. I'm 
sure I saw some as composed as could be under Judge Corbet's 
speech." 

" But about Dixon? He must not die, Mr. Johnson." 

•' Well, I don't know that he will," said Mr. Johnson, in some- 
thing of the tone of voice he would have used in soothing a 
child. "Judge Corbet said something about the possibility of 
a pardon. The jury did not recommend him to mercy : you see, 
his looks went so much against him, and all the evidence was so 
strong, and no defence, so to speak, for he would not furnish 
any information on which we could base defence. But the judge 
did give some hope, to my mind, though there are others that 
think differently." 

" I tell you, Mr. Johnson, he must not die, and he shall not. 
To whom must I go?" 

" Whew ! Have you got additional evidence?" with a sudden 
sharp glance of professional inquiry. 

" Never mind," Ellinor answered. " I beg your pardon , . . 
only tell me into whose hands the power of life and death has 
passed." 

" Into the Home Secretary's — Sir Philip Homes ; but you 
cannot get access to him on such an errand. It is the judge who 
tried the case that must urge a reprieve — Judge Corbet." 

"Judge Corbet ?" 

" Yes ; and he was rather inclined to take a merciful view of 
the whole case. I saw it in his charge. He'll be the person 
for you to see. I suppose you don't like to give me your con- 
fidence, or else I could arrange and draw up what will have to 
be said?" 

" No. What I have to say must be spoken to the arbiter— to 
no one else. I am afraid I answered you impatiently just now. 
You must forgive me ; if you knew all, I am sure you would," 



A DARK night's WORK. I5I 

"Say no more, my dear lady. We will suppose you have 
some evidence not adduced at the trial. Well ; you must go up 
and see the judge, since you don't choose to impart it to any one, 
and lay it before him. He will doubtless compare it with his 
notes of the trial, and see how far it agrees with them. Of 
course you must be prepared with some kind of proof; for Judge 
Corbet will have to test your evidence." 

" It seems strange to think of him as the judge," said Ellinor, 
almost to herself. 

"Why, yes. He's but a young judge. You knew him at 
Hamley, I suppose? I remember his reading there with Mr. 
Ness." 

" Yes, but do not let us talk more about that time. Tell me 
when can I see Dixon ? I have been to the Castle already, but 
they said I must have a sheriff's order." 

' ' To be sure. I desired Mrs. Johnson to tell you so last 
night. Old Ormerod was dining here ; he is clerk to the magis- 
trates, and I told him of your wish. He said he would see Sir 
Henry Croper, and have the order here before ten. But all this 
time Mrs. Johnson is waiting breakfast for us. Let me take you 
into the dining-room." 

It was very hard work for Ellinor to do her duty as a guest, 
and to allow herself to be interested and talked to on local affairs 
by her host and hostess. But she felt as if she had spoken 
shortly and abruptly to Mr. Johnson in their previous conversa- 
tion, and that she must try and make amends for it ; so she 
attended to all the details about the restoration of the church, 
and the difficulty of getting a good music-master for the three 
little Miss Johnsons, with all her usual gentle good breeding 
and patience, though no one can tell how her heart and imagina- 
tion were full of the coming interview with poor old Dixon. 

By-and-by Mr. Johnson was called out of the room to see 
Mr. Ormerod, and receive the order of admission from him. 
Ellinor clasped her hands tight together as she listened with 
apparent composure to Mrs. Johnson's never-ending praise of the 
HuUah system. But when Mr. Johnson returned, she could not 
Iielp interrupting her eulogy, and saying — 

' ' Then I may go now ? " 

Yes, the order was there — she might go, and Mr. Johnson 
would accompany her, to see that she met with no difficulty c?r 
obstacle. 



152 A DARK night's WORK. 

As they walked thither, he told her that some one — a turnkey, 
or some one — would have to be present at the interview ; that 
such was always the rule in the case of condemned prisoners \ 
but that if this third person was " obliging," he would keep out 
of earshot. Mr. J ohnson quietly took care to see that the turnkey 
who accompanied Ellinor was " obliging." 

The man took her across high-walled courts, along stone 
corridors, and through many locked doors, before they came to 
the condemned cells. 

" I've had three at a time in here," said he, unlocking the final 
door, "after Judge Morton had been here. We always called 
him the * Hanging Judge.' But it's five years since he died, and 
now there's never more than one in at a time ; though once it was 
a woman for poisoning her husband. Mary Jones was her name. " 

The stone passage out of which the cells opened was light, and 
bare, and scrupulously clean. Over each door was a small barred 
window, and an outer window of the same description was placed 
high up in the cell, which the turnkey now opened. 

Old Abraham Dixon was sitting on the side of his bed, doing 
nothing. His head was bent, his frame sunk, and he did not 
seem to care to turn round and see who it was that entered. 

Ellinor tried to keep down her sobs while the man went up to 
him, and laying his hand on his shoulder, and hghtly shaking 
him, he said — 

" Here's a friend come to see you, Dixon." Then, turning to 
Elhnor, he added, "There's some as takes it in this kind o' 
stunned way, while others are as restless as a wild beast in a 
cage, after they're sentenced." And then he withdrew into the 
passage, leaving the door open, so that he could see all that 
passed if he chose to look, but ostentatiously keeping his eyes 
averted, and whistling to himself, so that he could not hear what 
they said to each other. 

Dixon looked up at Ellinor, but then let his eyes fall on the 
ground again ; the increasing trembling of his shrunken frame 
was the only sign he gave that he had recognised her. 

She sat down by him, and took his large horny hand in hers. 
She wanted to overcome her inclination to sob hysterically before 
she spoke. She stroked the bony shrivelled fingers, on which 
her hot scalding tears kept dropping. 

"Dunnot do that," said he at length, in a hollow voice.. 
*' Dunnot take on about it ; it's best as it is, missy." 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 53 

" No, Dixon, it's not best. It shall not be. You know it shall 
not — cannot be." 

" I'm rather tired of living. It's been a great strain and 
labour for me. I think I'd as lief be with God as with men. 
And you see, I were fond on him ever sin' he were a little lad, 
and told me what hard times he had at school, he did, just as if 
I were his brother ! I loved him next to Molly Greaves. Dear ! 
and I shall see her again, I reckon, come next Saturday week ! 
They'll think well on me, up there, I'll be bound ; though I 
cannot say as I've done all as I should do here below." 

"But, Dixon," said Ellinor, "you know who did this — 
this " 

"Guilty o' murder," said he. "That's what they called it. 
Murder ! And that it never were, choose who did it." 

" My poor, poor father did it. I am going up to London this 
afternoon ; I am going to see the judge, and tell him all." 

" Don't you demean yourself to that fellow, missy. It's him 
as left you in the lurch as soon as sorrow and shame came 
nigh you." 

He looked up at her now, for the first time ; but she went on 
as if she had not noticed those wistful, weary eyes. 

"Yes! I shall go to him. I know who it is ; and I am resolved. 
After all, he may be better than a stranger, for real help ; and I 
shall never remember any — anything else, when I think of you, 
good faithful friend." 

" He looks but a wizened old fellow in his grey wig. I should 
hardly ha' known him. I gave him a look, as much as to say, 
'I could tell tales o' you, my lord judge, if I chose.' I don't 
know if he heeded me, though. I suppose it were for a sign of 
old acquaintance that he said he'd recom mend me to mercy. But 
I'd sooner have death nor mercy, by long odds. Yon man out 
there says mercy means Botany Bay. It 'ud be like killing 
me by inches, that would. It would. I'd liefer go straight to 
heaven, than live on among the black folk." 

He began to shake again : this idea of transportation, from 
its very mysteriousness, was more terrifying to him than death. 
He kept on saying plaintively, "Missy, you'll never let 'em 
send me to Botany Bay ; I couldn't stand that." 

" No, no!" said she. "You shall come out of this prison, 
and go home with me to East Chester ; I promise you you shall. 
I promise you. I don't yet quite know how, but trust in my 



154 A DARK NIGHT'S WORK. 

promise. Don't fret about Botany Bay. If you go there, I 
go too. I am so sure you will not go. And you know if you 
have done anything against the law in concealing that fatal 
night's work, I did too, and if you are to be punished, I will 
be punished too. But I feel sure it will be right ; I mean as 
right as anything can be, wiih the recollection of that time 
present to us, as it must always be." She almost spoke these 
last words to herself. They sat on, hand in hand, for a few 
minutes more in silence. 

" I thought you'd come to me. I knowed you were far away 
in foreign parts. But I used to pray to God. ' Dear Lord 
God ! ' I used to say, ' let me see her again.' I told the chaplain 
as I'd begin to pray for repentance, at after I'd done praying 
that I might see you once again : for it just seemed to take 
all my strength to say those words as I've named. And I 
thought as how God knew what was in my heart better than I 
could tell Him : how I was main and sorry for all as I'd ever 
done wrong ; I allays were, at after it was done ; but I thought 
as no one could know how bitter-keen I wanted to see you." 

Again they sank into silence. EUinor felt as if she would 
fain be away and active in procuring his release ; but she also 
perceived how precious her presence was to him ; and she did 
not like to leave him a moment before the time allowed her. 
His voice had changed to a weak, piping, old man's quaver, 
and between the times of his talking he seemed to relapse into 
a dreamy state ; but through it all he held her hand tight, as 
though afraid that she would leave him. 

So the hour elapsed, with no more spoken words than those 
above. From time to time Ellinor's tears dropped down upon 
her lap ; she could not restrain them, though she scarce knew 
why she cried just then. 

At length the turnkey said that the time allowed for the inter- 
view was ended. Ellinor spoke no word ; but rose, and bent 
down and kissed the old man's forehead, saying — 

" I shall come back to-morrow. God keep and comfort you ! " 

So, almost without an articulate word from him in reply (he 
rose up, and stood on his shaking legs, as she bade him fare- 
well, putting his hand to his head with the old habitual mark 
of respect), she went her way, swiftly out of the prison, swiftly 
back with Mr. Johnson to his house, scarcely patient or strong 
enough in her hurry to explain to him fully all that she meant 



A DARK night's WORK. 155 

to do. She only asked him a few absolutely requisite questions ; 
and informed him of her intention to go straight to London to 
see Judge Corbet. 

Jast before the railway carriage in which she was seated 
started on the journey, she bent forward, and put out her hand 
once more to Mr. Johnson. "To-morrow I will thank you for 
all," she said. " I cannot now." 

It was about the same time that she bad reached Hellingford 
on the previous night, that she arrived at the Great Western 
station on this evening — past eight o'clock. On the way she 
had remembered and arranged many things : one important 
question she had omitted to ask Mr. Johnson ; but that was 
easily remedied. She had not inquired where she could find 
Judge Corbet ; if she had, Mr. Johnson could probably have 
given her his professional address. As it was, she asked for 
a Post-Office Directory at the hotel, and looked out for his 
private dwelling — 128 Hyde Park Gardens. 

She rang for a waiter. 

"Can I send a messenger to Hyde Park Gardens?" she said, 
hurrying on to her business, tired and worn-out as she was. 
" It is only to ask if Judge Corbet is at home this evening. If 
he is, I must go and see him." 

The waiter was a little surprised, and would gladly have had 
her name to authorise the inquiry ; but she could not bear to- 
send it ; it would be bad enough that first meeting, without the 
feeling that he, too, had had time to recall all the past days. 
Better to go in upon him unprepared, and plunge into the 
subject. 

The waiter returned with the answer while she yet was 
pacing up and down the room restlessly, nerving herself for 
the interview. 

"The messenger has been to Hyde Park Gardens, ma'am. 
The Judge and Lady Corbet are gone out to dinner." 

Lady Corbet ! Of course Ellinor knew that he was married. 
Had she not been present at the wedding in East Chester 
Cathedral? But, somehow, these recent events had so carried 
her back to old times, that the intimate association of the 
names, "the Judge and Lady Corbet," seemed to awaken her 
out of some dream. 

"Oh, very well," she said, just as if these thoughts were 
not passing rapidly through her mind. "Let me be called at 



156 A DARK night's WORK. 

seven to-morrow morning, and let me have a cab at the door 
to Hyde Park Gardens at eight." 

And so she went to bed ; but scarcely to sleep. All night 
long she had the scenes of those old times, the happy, happy 
days of her youth, the one terrible night that cut all happiness 
short, present before her. She could almost have fancied that 
she heard the long-silent sounds of her father's step, her father's 
way of breathing, the rustle of his newspaper as he hastily 
turned it over, coming through the lapse of years ; the silence 
of the night. She knew that she had the little writing-case of 
her girlhood with her, in her box. The treasures of the dead 
that it contained, the morsel of dainty sewing, the little sister's 
golden curl, the half-finished letter to Mr. Corbet, were all 
there. She took them out, and looked at each separately ; 
looked at them long — long and wistfully. "Will it be of any 
use to me ? " she questioned of herself, as she was about to put 
her father's letter back into its receptacle. She read the last 
words over again, once more: " From my death-bed I adjure 
you to stand her friend ; I will beg pardon on my knees for 
anything." 

"I will take it," thought she. "I need not bring it out; 
most likely there will be no need for it, after what I shall have 
to say. All is so altered, so changed between us, as utterly as 
if it never had been, that I think I shall have no shame in 
showing it him, for my own part of it. While, if he sees poor 
papa's, dear, dear papa's suffering humility, it may make him 
think more gently of one who loved him once, though they 
parted in wrath with each other, I'm afraid." 

So she took the letter with her when she drove to Hyde Park 
Gardens. 

Every nerve in her body was in such a high state of tension 
that she could have screamed out at the cabman's boisterous 
knock at the door. She got out hastily, before any one was 
ready or willing to answer such an untimely summons ; paid 
the man double what he ought to have had ; and stood there, 
sick, trembling, and humble. 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 57 



CHAPTER XVI. AND LAST. 

"Is Judge Corbet at home? Can I see him?" she asked of 
the footman, who at length answered the door. 

He looked at her curiously, and a little familiarly, before he 
replied — 

"Why, yes ! He's pretty sure to be at home at this time of 
day ; but whether he'll see you is quite another thing." 

"Would you be so good as to ask him? It is on very 
particular business." 

' ' Can you give me a card ? your name, perhaps, will do, if 
you have not a card. I say, Simmons" (to a lady's-maid 
crossing the hall), "is the judge up yet?" 

" Oh yes ! he's in his dressing-room this half-hour. My lady 
is coming down directly. It is just breakfast time." 

" Can't you put it off, and come again, a httle later?" said 
he, turning once more to Ellinor— white Elhnor ! trembling 
EUinor ! 

"No! please let me come in, I will wait. I am sure 
Judge Corbet will see me, if you will tell him I am here. Miss 
Wilkins. He will know the name." 

" Well, then ; will you wait here till I have got breakfast in? " 
said the man, letting her into the hall, and pointing to the 
bench there. He took her, from her dress, to be a lady's- 
maid or governess, or at most a tradesman's daughter ; and, 
besides, he was behindhand with all his preparations. She 
came in and sat down. 

" You will tell him I am here," she said faintly. 

"Oh yes, never fear: I'll send up word, though I don't 
believe he'll come to you before breakfast." 

He told a page, who ran upstairs, and, knocking at the 
judge's door, said that a Miss Jenkins wanted to speak to 
him. 

" Who?" asked the judge from the inside. 

" Miss Jenkins. She said you would know the name, sir." 

" Not I. Tell her to wait. " 

So EUinor waited. Presently down the stairs, with slow 
deliberate dignity, came the handsome Lady Corbet, in her 
rustling silks and ample petticoats, carrying her fine boy, and 
followed by her majestic nurse. She was ill-pleased that any 



158 A DARK night's WORK. 

one should come and take up her husband's time when he 
was at home, and supposed to be enjoying domestic leisure ; 
and her imperious, inconsiderate nature did not prompt her 
to any civility towards the gentle creature sitting down, weary 
and heart-sick, in her house. On the contrary, she looked 
her over as she slowly descended, till Ellinor shrank abashed 
from the steady gaze of the large black eyes. Then she, her 
baby and nurse, disappeared into the large dining-room, into 
which all the preparations for breakfast had been carried. 

The next person to come down would be the judge. Ellinor 
instinctively put down her veil. She heard his quick decided 
step ; she had known it well of old. 

He gave one of his sharp, shrewd glances at the person sitting 
in the hall and waiting to speak to him, and his practised eye 
recognised the lady at once, in spite of her travel-worn dress. 

"Will you just come into this room?" said he, opening the 
door of his study, to the front of the house : the dining-room 
was to the back ; they communicated by folding-doors. 

The astute lawyer placed himself with his back to the window ; 
it was the natural position of the master of the apartment ; but 
it also gave him the advantage of seeing his companion's face 
in full light. EUinor lifted her veil ; it had only been a dislike 
to a recognition in the hall which had made her put it down. 

Judge Corbet's countenance changed more than hers ; she had 
been prepared for the interview ; he was not. But he usually 
had the full command of the expression on his face. 

*' Ellinor ! Miss Wilkins ! is it you?" And he went forwards, 
holding out his hand with cordial greeting, under which the em- 
barrassment, if he felt any, was carefully concealed. She could 
not speak all at once in the way she wished. 

" That stupid Henry told me ' Jenkins ! ' I beg your pardon. 
How could they put you down to sit in the hall? You must 
come in and have some breakfast with us ; Lady Corbet will be 
delighted, I'm sure." His sense of the awkwardness of the 
meeting with the woman who was once to have been his wife, 
and of the probable introduction which was to follow to the 
woman who was his actual wife, grew upon him, and made him 
speak a little hurriedly. Ellinor's next words were a wonderful 
rehef ; and her soft gentle way of speaking was like the touch of 
a cooling balsam. 

"Thank you, you must excuse me. I am come strictly on 



A DARK night's WORK. 1 59 

business, otherwise I should never have thought of calhng on 
you at such an hour. It is about poor Dixon." 

"Ah! I thought as much!" said the judge, handing her a 
chair, and sitting down himself. He tried to compose his mind 
to business, but in spite of his strength of character, and his 
present efforts, the remembrance of old times would come back 
at the sound of her voice. He wondered if he was as much 
changed in appearance as she struck him as being in that first 
look of recognition ; after that first glance he rather avoided 
meeting her eyes. 

" I knew how much you would feel it. Some one at Helling- 
ford told me you were abroad, in Rome, I think. But you must 
not distress yourself unnecessarily ; the sentence is sure to be 
commuted to transportation, or something equivalent. I was 
talking to the Home Secretary about it only last night. Lapse 
of time and subsequent good character quite preclude any idea 
of capital punishment." All the time that he said this he had 
other thoughts at the back of his mind — some curiosity, a little 
regret, a touch of remorse, a wonder how the meeting (which, 
of course, would have to be some time) between Lady Corbet 
and Ellinor would go off ; but he spoke clearly enough on the 
subject in hand, and no outward mark of distraction from it 
appeared. 

Ellinor answered — 

"I came to tell you, what I suppose may be told to any 
judge, in confidence and full reliance on his secrecy, that 
Abraham Dixon was not the murderer." She stopped short, 
and choked a little. 

The judge looked sharply at her. 

" Then you know who was?" said he. 

"Yes," she rephed^ with a low, steady voice, looking him full 
in the face, with sad, solemn eyes. 

The truth flashed into his mind. He shaded his face, and 
did not speak for a minute or two. Then he said, not looking 
up, a little hoarsely, "This, then, was the shame you told me 
of long ago?" 

"Yes," said she. 

Both sat quite still ; quite silent for some time. Through the 
silence a sharp, clear voice was heard speaking through the 
folding-doors. 

"Take the kedgeree down, and tell the cook to keep it hot 



l6o A DARK night's WORK. 

for the judge. It is so tiresome people coming on business 
here, as if the judge had not his proper hours for being at 
chambers." 

He got up hastily, and went into the dining-room ; but he had 
audibly some difficulty in curbing his wife's irritation. 

When he came back, EUinor said — 

" I am afraid I ought not to have come here now." 

"Oh! it's all nonsense!" said he, in a tone of annoyance. 
"You've done quite right." He seated himself where he had 
been before ; and again half covered his face with his hand. 

' ' And Dixon knew of this. I believe I must put the fact 
plainly to you — your father was the guilty person? He mur- 
dered Uunster?" 

" Yes. If you call it murder. It was done by a blow, in the 
heat of passion. No one can ever tell how Dunster always 
irritated papa," said Ellinor, in a stupid heavy way ; and then 
she sighed. 

"How do you know this?" There was a kind of tender 
reluctance in the judge's voice, as he put all these questions. 
Ellinor had made up her mind beforehand that something like 
them must be asked, and must also be answered ; but she spoke 
like a sleep-walker. 

"I came into papa's room just after he had struck Mr. 
Dunster the blow. He was lying insensible, as we thought — 
dead, as he really was." 

" What was Dixon's part in it ? He must have known a good 
deal about it. And the horse-lancet that was found with his 
name upon it?" 

" Papa went to wake Dixon, and he brought his fleam— I 
suppose to try and bleed him. I have said enough, have I not ? 
I seem so confused. But I will answer any question to make it 
appear that Dixon is innocent." 

The judge had been noting all down. He sat still now with- 
out replying to her. Then he wrote rapidly, referring to his 
previous paper from time to time. In five minutes or so he 
read the facts which Ellinor had stated, as he now arranged 
them, in a legal and connected form. He just asked her one 
or two trivial questions as he did so. Then he read it over to 
her, and asked her to sign it. She took up the pen, and held 
it, hesitating. 

" This will never be made pubhc?" said she. 



A DARK night's WORK. l6l 

" No ; I shall take care that no one but the Home Secretary 
sees it." 

'' Thank you. I could not help it, now it has come to this." 

" There are not many men like Dixon," said the judge, almost 
to himself, as he sealed the paper in an envelope. 

" No," said Ellinor ; " I never knew any one so faithful." 

And just at the same moment the reflection on a less faithful 
person that these words might seem to imply struck both of 
them, and each instinctively glanced at the other. 

" Ellinor ! " said the judge, after a moment's pause, " we are 
friends, I hope?"" 

" Yes ; friends," said she, quietly and sadly. 

He felt a little chagrined at her answer. Why, he could hardly 
tell. To cover any sign of his feeling he went on talking. 

' ' Where are you living now ? " 

"At East Chester." 

" But you come sometimes to town, don't you? Let us know 
always — whenever you come ; and Lady Corbet shall call on 
you. Indeed, I wish you'd let me bring her to see you to-day." 

"Thank you. I am going straight back to Hellingford ; at 
least, as soon as you can get me the pardon for Dixon." 

He half smiled at her ignorance. 

' ' The pardon must be sent to the sheriff, who holds the 
warrant for his execution. But, of course, you may have every 
assurance that it shall be sent as soon as possible. It is just the 
same as if he had it now." 

" Thank you very much," said Ellinor, rising. 

"Pray don't go without breakfast. If you would rather not 
see Lady Corbet just now, it shall be sent in to you in this room, 
unless you have already breakfasted." 

"No, thank you; I would rather not. You are very kind, 
and I am very glad to have seen you once again. There is just 
one thing more," said she, colouring a little and hesitating. 
"This note to you was found under papa's pillow after his 
death ; some of it refers to past things ; but I should be glad if 
you could think as kindly as you can of poor papa — and so — 
if you will read it " 

He took it and read it, not without emotion. Then he laid it 
down on his table, and said — 

" Poor man ! he must have suffered a great deal for that 
night's work. And you, Ellinor, you have suffered, too." 



l62 A DARK night's WORK. 

Yes, she had suffered ; and he who spoke had been one of the 
instruments of her suffering, although he seemed forgetful of it. 
She shook her head a little for reply. Then she looked up at 
him — tliey were both standing at the time — and said — 

" I think I shall be happier now. I always knew it must be 
found out. Once more, good-bye, and thank you. I may take 
this letter, I suppose?" said she, casting envious loving eyes at 
her father's note, lying unregarded on the table. 

"Oh! certainly, certainly," said he; and then he took her 
hand ; he held it, while he looked into her face. He had 
thought it changed when he had first seen her, but it was now 
almost the same to him as of yore. The sweet shy eyes, the 
indicated dimple in the cheek, and something of fever had 
brought a faint pink flush into her usually colourless cheeks. 
Married judge though he was, he was not sure if she had not 
more charms for him still in her sorrow and her shabbiness than 
the handsome stately wife in the next room, whose looks had not 
been of the pleasantest when he left her a few minutes before. 
He sighed a little regretfully as Ellinor went away. He had 
obtained the position he had struggled for, and sacrificed for ; 
but now he could not help wishing that the slaughtered creature 
laid on the shrine of his ambition were alive again. 

The kedgeree was brought up again, smoking hot, but it re- 
mained untasted by him ; and though he appeared to be reading 
the Times, he did not see a word of the distinct type. His wife, 
meanwhile, continued her complaints of the untimely visitor, 
whose name he did not give to her in its corrected form, as he 
was not anxious that she should have it in her power to identify 
the call of this morning with a possible future acquaintance. 

When Elhnor reached Mr. Johnson's house in Hellingford, 
that afternoon, she found Miss Monro was there, and that she 
had been with much difficulty restrained by Mr. Johnson from 
following her to London. 

Miss Monro fondled and purred inarticulately through her tears 
over her recovered darling, before she could speak intelligibly 
enough to tell her that Canon Livingstone had come straight to 
see her immediately on his return to East Chester, and had 
suggested her journey to Hellingford, in order that she might be 
of all the comfort she could to Elhnor. She did not at first let 
out that he had accompanied her to Hellingford ; she was a little 
afraid of Ellinor's displeasure at his being there ; Ellinor had 



A DARK night's WORK. 163 

always objected so much to any advance towards intimacy with 
him that Miss Monro had wished to make. But EUinor was 
different now. 

" How white you are, Nelly ! " said Miss Monro. " You have 
been travelling too much and too fast, my child." 

" My head aches ! " said Ellinor wearily. " But I must go to 
the Castle, and tell my poor Dixon that he is reprieved — I am so 
tired ! Will you ask Mr. Johnson to get me leave to see him ? 
He will know all about it." 

She threw herself down on the bed in the spare room ; the bed 
with the heavy blue curtains. After an unheeded remonstrance, 
Miss Monro went to do her bidding. But it was now late after- 
noon, and Mr. Johnson said that it would be impossible for him 
to get permission from the sheriff that night. 

" Besides," said he courteously, " one scarcely knows whether 
Miss Wilkins may not give the old man false hopes — whether she 
has not been excited to have false hopes herself ; it might be a 
cruel kindness to let her see him, without more legal certainty 
as to what his sentence, or reprieve, is to be. By to-morrow 
morning, if I have properly understood her story, which was a 
little confused " 

" She is so dreadfully tired, poor creature," put in Miss Monro, 
who never could bear the shadow of a suspicion that Elhnor was 
not wisest, best, in all relations and situations, of life. 

Mr. Johnson went on, with a deprecatory bow : " Well, then 
— it really is the only course open to her besides — persuade her 
to rest for this evening. By to-morrow morning I will have ob- 
tained the sheriffs leave, and he will most likely have heard from 
London." 

" Thank you ! I believe that will be best." 

" It is the only course," said he. 

When Miss Monro returned to the bedroom, Ellinor was in 
a heavy feverish slumber ; so feverish and so uneasy did she 
appear, that, after the hesitation of a moment or two. Miss Monro 
had no scruple in wakening her. 

But she did not appear to understand the answer to her re- 
quest ; she did not seem even to remember that she had made 
any request. 

The journey to England, the misery, the surprises, had been 
too much for her. The morrow morning came, bringing the 
formal free pardon for Abraham Dixon. The sheriff's order for 



l64 A DARK night's WORK. 

her admission to see the old man lay awaiting her wish to use it ; 
but she knew nothing of all this. 

For days, nay weeks, she hovered between life and death, 
tended, as of old, by Miss Monro, while good Mrs. Johnson was 
ever wilHng to assist. 

One summer evening in early June she wakened into memory. 

Miss Monro heard the faint piping voice, as she kept her watch 
by the bedside. 

" Where is Dixon ?" asked she. 

"At the canon's house at Bromham." This was the name of 
Dr. Livingstone's country parish. 

"Why?" 

' ' We thought it better to get him into country air and fresh 
scenes at once." 

" How is he?" 

" Much better. Get strong, and he shall come to see you." 

" You are sure all is right? " said EUinor. 

"Sure, my dear. All is quite right." 

Then Ellinor went to sleep again, out of very weakness and 
weariness. 

From that time she recovered pretty steadily. Her great 
desire was to return to East Chester as soon as possible. The 
associations of grief, anxiety, and coming illness, connected with 
Hellingford, made her wish to be once again in the solemn, quiet, 
sunny close of East Chester. 

Canon Livingstone came over to assist Miss Monro in manag- 
ing the journey with her invalid. But he did not intrude himself 
upon Ellinor, any more than he had done in coming from home. 

The morning after her return, Miss Monro said — 

" Do you feel strong enough to see Dixon ?" 

" Yes. Is he here?" 

" He is at the canon's house. He sent for him from Bromham, 
in order that he might be ready for you to see him when you 
wished." 

" Please let him come directly," said Ellinor, flushing and 
trembling. 

She went to the door to meet the tottering old man ; she led 
him to the easy-chair that had been placed and arranged for 
herself; she knelt down before him, and put his hands on her 
head, he trembhng and shaking all the while. 

" Forgive me all the shame and misery, Dixon. Say you for- 



A DARK night's WORK. 165 

give me ; and give me your blessing. And then let never a word 
of the terrible past be spoken between us." 

" It's not for me to forgive you, as never did harm to no 
one " 

" But say you do — it will ease my heart. " 

" I forgive thee ! " said he. And then he raised himself to his 
feet with effort, and, standing up above her, he blessed her 
solemnly. 

After that he sat down, she by him, gazing at him. 

" Yon's a good man, missy," he said at length, hfting his slow 
eyes and looking at her. " Better nor t'other ever was." 

" He is a good man," said Ellinor. 

But no more was spoken on the subject. The next day, 
Canon Livingstone made his formal call. Ellinor would fain 
have kept Miss Monro in the room, but that worthy lady knew 
better than to stop. 

They went on, forcing talk on indifferent subjects. At last he 
could speak no longer on everything but that which he had most 
at heart. " Miss Wilkins ! " (he had got up, and was standing 
by the mantelpiece, apparently examining the ornaments upon 
it) — " Miss Wilkins ! is there any chance of your giving me a 
favourable answer now — you know what I mean — what we spoke 
about at the Great Western Hotel, that day ?" 

Ellinor hung her head. 

" You know that I was once engaged before?" 

" Yes ! I know ; to Mr. Corbet — he that is now the judge ; 
you cannot suppose that would make any difference, if that 
is all, I have loved you, and you only, ever since we met, 
eighteen years ago. Miss Wilkins — Ellinor — put me out of 
suspense." 

" I will ! " said she, putting out her thin white hand for him 
to take and kiss, almost with tears of gratitude, but she seemed 
frightened at his impetuosity and tried to check him. " Wait — 
you have not heard all — my poor, poor father, in a fit of anger, 
irritated beyond his bearing, struck the blow that killed Mr. 
Dunster — Dixon and I knew of it, just after the blow was struck 
— we helped to hide it — we kept the secret — my poor father died 
of sorrow and remorse — you now know all — can you still love me ? 
It seems to me as if I had been an accomplice in such a terrible 
thing ! " 

" Poor, poor Ellinor !" said he, now taking her in his arms 



1 66 A DARK night's WORK. 

as a shelter. ' ' How I wish I had known of all this years and 
years ago : I could have stood between you and so much ! " 

Those who pass through the village of Bromham, and pause 
to look over the laurel-hedge that separates the rectory garden 
from the road, may often see, on summer days, an old, old man, 
sitting in a wicker-chair, out upon the lawn. He leans upon his 
stick, and seldom raises his bent head ; but for all that his eyes 
are on a level with the two little fairy children who come to him 
in all their small joys and sorrows, and who learnt to lisp his 
name almost as soon as they did that of their father and 
mother. 

Nor is Miss Monro often absent ; and although she prefers 
to retain the old house in the Close for winter quarters, she gene- 
rally makes her way across to Canon Livingstone's residence 
every evening. 



so ENDS "A DARK NIGHT'S WORK." 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 



PART I. 

T T is a great thing for a lad when he is first turned into the 
independence of lodgings. I do not think I ever was so 
satisfied and proud in my hfe as when, at seventeen, I sate down 
in a little three-cornered room above a pastry-cook's shop in the 
county town of Eltham. My father had left me that afternoon, 
after delivering himself of a few plain precepts, strongly expressed, 
for my guidance in the new course of Hfe on which I was enter- 
ing. I was to be a clerk under the engineer who had undertaken 
to make the little branch hne from Eltham to Hornby. My 
father had got me this situation, which was in a position rather 
above his own in life ; or perhaps I should say, above the station 
in which he was born and bred ; for he was raising himself every 
year in men's consideration and respect. He was a mechanic 
by trade ; but he had some inventive genius, and a great deal of 
perseverance, and had devised several valuable improvements in 
railway machinery. He did not do this for profit, though, as 
was reasonable, what came in the natural course of things was 
acceptable ; he worked out his ideas, because, as he said, "until 
he could put them into shape, they plagued him by night and by 
day." But this is enough about my dear father ; it is a good 
thing for a country where there are many like him. He was a 
sturdy Independent by descent and conviction ; and this it was, 
I believe, which made him place me in the lodgings at the pastry- 
cook's. The shop was kept by the two sisters of our minister at 
home ; and this was considered as a sort of safeguard to my 
morals, when I was turned loose upon the temptations of the 
county town, with a salary of thirty pounds a year. 

My father had given up two precious days, and put on his 
Sunday clothes, in order to bring me to Eltham, and accompany 
167 



l68 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

me first to the office, to introduce me to my new master (who was 
under some obligations to my father for a suggestion), and next 
to take me to call on the Independent minister of the little con- 
gregation at Eltham. And then he left me ; and, though sorry 
to part with him, I now began to taste with rehsh the pleasure 
of being my own master. I unpacked the hamper that my 
mother had provided me with, and smelt the pots of preserve 
with all the delight of a possessor who might break into their 
contents at any time he pleased. I handled and weighed in my 
fancy the home-cured ham, which seemed to promise me inter- 
minable feasts ; and, above all, there was the fine savour of 
knowing that I might eat of these dainties when I liked, at my 
sole will, not dependent on the pleasure of any one else, however 
indulgent. I stowed my eatables away in the little corner cup- 
board—that room was all corners, and everything was placed in 
a corner, the fireplace, the window, the cupboard ; I myself 
seemed to be the only tiling in the middle, and there was hardly 
room for me. The table was made of a folding leaf under the 
window, and the window looked out upon the market-place ; so 
the studies for the prosecution of which my father had brought 
himself to pay extra for a sitting-room for me, ran a considerable 
chance of being diverted from books to men and women. I was 
to have my meals with the two elderly Miss Dawsons in the little 
parlour behind the three-cornered shop downstairs ; my break- 
fasts and dinners at least, for, as my hours in an evening were 
likely to be uncertain, my tea or supper was to be an independent 
meal. 

Then, after this pride and satisfaction, came a sense of deso- 
lation. I had never been from home before, and I was an only 
child ; and though my father's spoken maxim had been, " Spare 
the rod, and spoil the child," yet, unconsciously, his heart had 
yearned after me, and his ways towards me were more tender 
than he knew, or would have approved of in himself could he 
have known. My mother, who never professed sternness, was 
far more severe than my father : perhaps my boyish faults 
annoyed her more ; for I remember, now that I have written the 
above words, how she pleaded for me once in my riper years, 
when I had really offended against my father's sense of right. 

But I have nothing to do with that now. It is about cousin 
Phillis that I am going to write, and as yet I am far enough from 
even saying who cousin Phillis was. 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 169 

For some months after I was settled in Eltham, the new em- 
ployment in which I was engaged — the new independence of my 
life — occupied all my thoughts. I was at my desk by eight 
o'clock, home to dinner at one, back at the office by two. The 
afternoon work was more uncertain than the morning's ; it might 
be the same, or it might be that I had to accompany Mr. Holds* 
worth, the managing engineer, to some point on the line between 
Eltham and Hornby. This I always enjoyed, because of the 
variety, and because of the country we traversed (which was 
very wild and pretty), and because I was thrown into companion- 
ship with Mr. Holdsworth, who held the position of hero in my 
boyish mind. He was a young man of live-and-twenty or so, 
and was in a station above min^, both by birth and education ; 
and he had travelled on the Continent, and wore mustachios 
aqfi whi^kcirs of a somewhat foreign fashion. I was proud of 
being seen with him. He was really a fine fellow in a good 
number of ways, and I might have fallen into much worse 
hands. 

Every Saturday I wrote home, telling of my weekly doings — 
my father had insisted upon this ; but there was so little variety 
in my life that I often found it hard work to fill a letter. On 
Sundays I went twice to chapel, up a dark narrow entry, to hear 
droning hymns, and long prayers, and a still longer sermon, 
preached to a small congregation, of which I was, by nearly a 
score of years, the youngest member. Occasionally, Mr. Peters, 
the minister, would ask me home to tea after the second service. 
I dreaded the honour, for I usually sate on the edge of my chair 
all the evening, and answered solemn questions, put in a deep 
bass voice, until household prayer-time came, at eight o'clock, 
when Mrs. Peters came in, smoothing down her apron, and the 
maid-of-all-work followed, and first a sermon, and then a chapter 
was read, and a long impromptu prayer followed, till some in- 
stinct told Mr. Peters that supper-time had come, and we rose 
from our knees with hunger for our predominant feeling. Over 
supper the minister did unbend a httle into one or two ponderous 
jokes, as if to show me that ministers were men, after all. And 
then at ten o'clock I went home, and enjoyed my long-repressed 
yawns in the three-cornered room before going to bed. 

Dinah and Hannah Dawson, so their names were put on the 
board above the shop-door — I always called them Miss Dawson 
and Miss Hannah — considered these visits of mine to Mr. Peters 

F 2 



IJO COUSIN PHILLIS. 

as the greatest honour a young man could have ; and evidently- 
thought that if, after such privileges, I did not work out my sal- 
vation, I was a sort of modern Judas Iscariot. On the contrary, 
they shook their heads over my intercourse with Mr. Holdsworth. 
He had been so kind to me in many ways, that when I cut into 
my ham, I hovered over the thought of asking him to tea in my 
room, more especially as the annual fair was being held in Eltham 
market-place, and the sight of the booths, the merry-go-rounds, 
the wild-beast shows, and such country pomps, was (as I thought 
at seventeen) very attractive. But when I ventured to allude to 
my wish in even distant terms. Miss Hannah caught me up, and 
spoke of the sinfulness of such sights, and something about wal- 
lowing in the mire, and then vaulted into France, and spoke evil 
of the nation, and all who had ever set foot therein, till, seeing 
that her anger was concentrating itself into a point, and that that 
point was Mr. Holdsworth, I thought it would be better to finish 
my breakfast, and make what haste I could out of the sound of 
her voice. I rather wondered afterwards to hear her and Miss 
Dawson counting up their weekly profits with glee, and saying 
that a pastry-cook's shop in the corner of the market-place, in 
Eltham fair week, was no such bad thing. However, I never 
ventured to ask Mr. Holdsworth to my lodgings. 

There is not much to tell about thisfirst year of mine at Eltham. 
But when I was nearly nineteen, and beginning to think of 
whiskers on my own account, I came to know cousin Philiis, 
whose very existence had been unknown to me till then. Mr. 
Holdsworth and I had been out to Heathbridge for a day, work- 
ing hard. Heathbridge was near Hornby, for our line of railway 
was above half finished. Of course a day's outing was a great 
thing to tell about in my weekly letters ; and I fell to describing 
the country — a fault I was not often guilty of. I told my father 
of the bogs, all over wild myrtle and soft moss, and shaking 
ground over which we had to carry our line ; and how Mr, 
Holdsworth and I had gone for our mid-day meals — for we had 
to stay here for two days and a. night — to a pretty village hard 
by, Heathbridge proper ; and how I hoped we should often have 
to go there, for the shaking, uncertain ground was puzzhng our 
•engineers — one end of the line going up as soon as the other was 
weighted down. (I had no thought for the shareholders' interest?, 
as may be seen ; we had to make a new line on firmer ground 
before the junction railway was completed. ) I told all this at 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 171 

great length, thankful to fill up my paper. By return letter, I 
heard that a second cousin of my mother's was married to the 
Independent minister of Hornby, Ebenezer Holman by name, 
and lived at Heathbridge proper ; the very Heathbridge I had 
described, or so my mother believed, for she had never seen her 
cousin Phillis Green, who was something of an heiress (my father 
beheved), being her father's only child, and old Thomas Green 
had owned an estate of near upon fifty acres, which must have 
come to his daughter. My mother's feehng of kinship seemed 
to have been strongly stirred by the mention of Heathbridge ; 
for my father said she desired me, if ever I went thither again, 
to make inquiry for the Reverend Ebenezer Holman ; and if 
indeed he hved there, I was further to ask if he had not married 
one Philhs Green ; and if both these questions were answered in 
the affirmative, I was to go and introduce myself as the only 
child of Margaret Manning, born Moneypenny. I was enraged 
at myself for having named Heathbridge at all, when I found 
what it was drawing down upon me. One Independent minister, 
as I said to myself, was enough for any man ; and here I knew 
(that is to say, I had been catechised on Sabbath mornings by) 
Mr. Hunter, our minister at home ; and I had had to be civil to 
old Peters at Eltham, and behave myself for five hours running 
whenever he asked me to tea at his house ; and now, just as I 
felt the free air blowing about me up at Heathbridge, I was to 
ferret out another minister, and I should perhaps have tp be 
catechised by him, or else asked to tea at his house. Besides, 
I did not like pushing myself upon strangers, who perhaps had 
never heard of my mother's name, and such an odd name as it 
was — Moneypenny ; and if they had, had never cared more for 
her than she had for them, apparently, until this unlucky mention 
of Heathbridge. 

Still, I would not disobey my parents in such a trifle, however 
irksome it might be. So the next time our business took me 
to Heathbridge, and we were dining in the httle sanded inn- 
Darlour, I took the opportunity of Mr. Holdsworth's being out 
of the room, and asked the questions which I was bidden to ask 
of the rosy-cheeked maid. I was either unintelligible or she was 
stupid ; for she said she did not know, but would ask master ; 
and of course the landlord came in to understand what it was I 
wanted to know ; and I had to bring out all my stammering 
inquiries before Mr. Holdsworth, who would never have attended 



172 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

to them, I dare say, if I had not blushed and blundered, and 
made such a fool of myself. 

"Yes," the landlord said, "the Hope Farm was in Heath- 
bridge proper, and the owner's name was Holman, and he was 
an Independent minister, and, as far as the landlord could tell, 
his wife's Christian name was Phillis ; anyhow her maiden name 
was Green." 

" Relations of yours?" asked Mr. Holdsworth. 

" No, sir — only my mother's second cousins. Yes, I suppose 
they are relations. But I never saw them in my life." 

" The Hope Farm is not a stone's throw from here," said the 
officious landlord, going to the window. "If you carry your 
eye over yon bed of hollyhocks, over the damson-trees in the 
orchard yonder, you may see a stack of queer-like stone chimneys. 
Tliem is the Hope Farm chimneys ; it's an old place, though 
Holman keeps it in good order." 

Mr. Holdsworth had risen from the table with more prompti- 
tude than I had, and was standing by the window, looking. At 
the landlord's last words, he turned round, smiling—" It is not 
often that parsons know how to keep land in order, is it ? " 

" Beg pardon, sir, but I must speak as I find ; and minister 
Holman — we call the Church clergyman here * parson,' sir ; he 
would be a bit jealous if he heard a Dissenter called parson — 
minister Holman knows what he's about as well as e'er a farmer 
in the neighbourhood. He gives up five days a week to his own 
work, and two to the Lord's ; and it is difficult to say which he 
works hardest at. He spends Saturday and Sunday a-writing 
sermons and a-visiting his flock at Hornby ; and at five o'clock 
on Monday morning he'll be guiding his plough in the Hope 
Farm yonder just as well as if he could neither read nor write-. 
But your dinner will be getting cold, gentlemen." 

So we went back to table. After a while, Mr. Holdsworth 
broke the silence—" If I were you, Manning, I'd look up these 
relations of yours. You can go and see what they're like while 
we're waiting for Dobson's estimates, and I'll smoke a cigar in 
the garden meanwhile." 

"Thank you, sir. But I don't know them, and I don't think 
I want to know them." 

"What did you ask all those questions for, then?" said he, 
looking quickly up at me. He had no notion of doing or saying 
things without a purpose. I did not answer, so he continued— 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 173 

"Make up your mind, and go off and see what this farmer- 
minister is like, and come back and tell me — I should like to hear." 
I was so in the habit of yielding to his authority, or influence, 
that I never thought of resisting, but went on my errand, though 
I remember feeling as if I would rather have had my head cut 
off. The landlord, who had evidently taken an interest in the 
€vent of our discussion in a way that country landlords have, 
accompanied me to the house-door, and gave me repeated 
directions, as if I was likely to miss my way in two hundred 
yards. But I listened to him, for I was glad of the delay, to 
screw up my courage for the effort of facing unknown people 
and introducing myself. I went along the lane, I recollect, 
switching at all the taller roadside weeds, till, after a turn or 
two, I found myself close in front of the Hope Farm. There 
was a garden between the house and the shady, grassy lane ; I 
afterwards found that this garden was called the court ; perhaps 
because there was a low wall round it, with an iron railing on 
the top of the wall, and two great gates between pillars crowned 
with stone balls for a state entrance to the flagged path leading 
up to the front door. It was not the habit of the place to go 
in either by these great gates or by the front door ; the gates, 
indeed, were locked, as I found, though the door stood wide 
open. I had to go round by a side path lightly worn on a 
broad, grassy way, which led past the court-wall, past a horse- 
mount, half covered with stone-crop, and a little wild yellow 
fumitory, to another door — "the curate," as I found it was 
termed by the master of the house, while the front door, " hand- 
some and all for show," was termed " the rector." I knocked 
with my hand upon the " curate" door; a tall girl, about my 
own age, as I thought, came and opened it, and stood there 
silent, waiting to know my errand. I see her now — cousin 
Phillis. The westering sun shone full upon her, and made a 
slanting stream of light into the room within. She was dressed 
in dark blue cotton of some kind ; up to her throat, down to 
her wrists, with a little frill of the same wherever it touched her 
white skin. And such a white skin as it was ! I have never 
seen the like. She had light hair, nearer yellow than any other 
colour. She looked me steadily in the face with large, quiet 
eyes, wondering, but untroubled by the sight of a stranger. I 
thought it odd that so old, so full-grown as she was, she should 
wear a pinafore over her gown. 



•174 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

Before I had quite made up my mind what to say in reply to 
her mute inquiry of what I wanted there, a woman's voice caUed 
out, "Who is it, PhilHs? If it is any one for butter-milk send 
them round to the back-door." 

I thought I could rather speak to the owner of that voice than 
to the girl before me ; so I passed her, and stood at the entrance 
of a room, hat in hand, for this side-door opened straight into 
the hall or house-place where the family sate when work was 
done. There was a brisk little woman of forty or so ironing^ 
some huge muslin cravats under the light of a long vine-shaded 
casement window. She looked at me distrustfully till I began 
to speak. "My name is Paul Manning," said I; but I saw 
she did not know the name. " My mother's name was Money- 
penny," said I — "Margaret Moneypenny." 

"And she married one John Manning, of Birmingham," said 
Mrs. Holman eagerly. "And you'll be her son. Sit down! 
I am right glad to see you. To think of your being Margaret's 
son ! Why, she was almost a child not so long ago. Well, to 
be sure, it is five-and-twenty years ago. And what brings you 
into these parts?" 

She sate down herself, as if oppressed by her curiosity as to 
all the five-and-twenty years that had passed by since she had 
seen my mother. Her daughter Phillis took up her knitting — a 
long grey worsted man's stocking, I remember— and knitted 
away without looking at her work. I felt that the steady gaze 
of those deep grey eyes was upon me, though once, when I 
stealthily raised mine to hers, she was examining something 
on the wall above my head. 

When I had answered all my cousin Holman's questions, she 
heaved a long breath, and said, " To think of Margaret Money- 
penny's boy being in our house ! I wish the minister was here. 
Phillis, in what field is thy father to-day?" 

" In the five-acre ; they are beginning to cut the corn." 

" He'll not like being sent for, then, else I should have liked 
you to have seen the minister. But the five-acre is a good step 
off. You shall have a glass of wine and a bit of cake before you 
stir from this house, though. You're bound to go, you say, or else 
the minister comes in mostly when the men have their four o'clock." 

" I must go — I ought to have been off before now." 

" Here, then, PhiUis, take the keys." She gave her daughter 
some whispered directions, and Phillis left the room. 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 175 

"She is my cousin, is she not?" I asked. I knew she was^ 
but somehow I wanted to talk of her, and did not know how 
to begin. 

" Yes — Phillis Holman. She is our only child — now." 

Either from that "now," or from a strange momentary wist- 
fulness in her eyes, I knew that there had been more children, 
who were now dead. 

"How old is cousin Phillis?" said I, scarcely venturing on 
-the new name, it seemed too prettily familiar for me to call her 
by it ; but cousin Holman took no notice of it, answering 
straight to the purpose. 

"Seventeen last May-day ; but the minister does not like to 
hear me calling it May-day," said she, checking herself with 
a Httle awe. "Phillis was seventeen on the first day of May 
last," she repeated in an emended edition. 

"And I am nineteen in another month," thought I to my- 
self ; I don't know why. 

Then Phillis came in, carrying a tray with wine and cake 
upon it. 

" We keep a house-servant," said cousin Holman, " but it is 
churning-day, and she is busy." It was meant as a Httle proud 
apology for her daughter's being the handmaiden. 

"I like doing it, mother," said Phillis, in her grave, full 
voice. 

I felt as if I were somebody in the Old Testament — ^who, I 
could not recollect — being served and waited upon by the 
daughter of the host. Was I like Abraham's steward, when 
Rebekah gave him to drink at the well? I thought Isaac had 
not gone the pleasantest way to work in winning him a wife. 
But PhiUis never thought about such things. She was a stately, 
gracious young woman, in the dress and with the simplicity of 
a child. 

As I had been taught, I drank to the health of my new-found 
cousin and her husband ; and then I ventured to name my 
cousin Phillis with a little bow of my head towards her ; but 
I was too awkward to look and see how she took my compH- 
ment. " I must go, now," said I, rising. 

Neither of the women had thought of sharing in the wine ; 
cousin Holman had broken a bit of cake for form's sake. 

"I wish the minister liad been within," said his wife, rising 
too. Secretly I was very glad he was not. I did not take 



176 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

.kindly to ministers in those days, and I thought he must be a 
particular kind of man, by his objecting to the term May-day. 
But before I went, cousin Holman made me promise that I 
would come back on the Saturday following and spend Sunday 
with them ; when I should see something of " the minister." 

"Come on Friday, if you can," were her last words as she 
stood at the curate-door, shading her eyes from the sinking sun 
with her hand. 

Inside the house sate cousin Phillis, her golden hair, her dazzl- 
ing complexion, lighting up the corner of the vine -shadowed 
room. She had not risen when I bade her good-bye ; she had 
looked at me straight as she said her tranquil words of fare- 
well. 

I found Mr. Holdsworth down at the line, hard at work 
superintending. As soon as he had a pause, he said, "Well, 
Manning, what are the new cousins like ? How do preaching 
and farming seem to get on together? If the minister turns 
out to be practical as well as reverend, I shall begin to respect 
him." 

But he hardly attended to my answer, he was so much more 
occupied with directing his workpeople. Indeed, my answer 
did not come very readily ; and the most distinct part of it was 
the mention of the invitation that had been given me. 

" Oh ! of course you can go — and on Friday, too, if you like ; 
there is no reason why not this week ; and you've done a long 
spell of work this time, old fellow." 

I thought that I did not want to go on Friday ; but when the 
day came, I found that I should prefer going to staying away, 
so I availed myself of Mr. Holdsworth 's permission, and went 
over to Hope Farm some time in the afternoon, a little later 
than my last visit. I found the "curate" open to admit the 
soft September air, so tempered by the warmth of the sun that 
it was warmer out of doors than in, although the wooden log 
lay smouldering in front of a heap of hot ashes on the hearth. 
The vine-leaves over the window had a tinge more yellow, their 
edges were here and there scorched and browned ; there was no 
ironing about, and cousin Holman sate just outside the house, 
mending a sliirt. Phillis was at her knitting indoors : it seemed 
as if she had been at it all the week. The many-speckled fowls 
were pecking about in the farmyard beyond, and the milk-cans 
glittered with brightness, hung out to sweeten. The court was 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 177 

so full of flowers that they crept out upon the low-covered wall 
and horse-mount, and were even to be found self-sown upon the 
turf that bordered the path to the back of the house. I fancied 
that my Sunday coat was scented for days afterwards by the 
bushes of sweetbriar and the fraxinella that perfumed the air. 
From time to time cousin Holman put her hand into a covered 
basket at her feet, and threw handfuls of corn down for the 
pigeons that cooed and fluttered in the air around, in expecta- 
tion of this treat. 

I had a thorough welcome as soon as she saw me. " Now, 
this is kind — this is right down friendly," shaking my hand 
warmly. " Phillis, your cousin Manning is come ! " 

"Call me Paul, will you?" said I ; " they call me so at home, 
and Manning in the office." 

"Well; Paul, then. Your room is all ready for you, Paul; 
for, as I said to the minister, ' I'll have it ready whether he 
comes o' Friday or not.' And the minister said he must go 
up to the Ash-field whether you were to come or not ; but he 
would come home betimes to see if you were here. I'll show 
you to your room, and you can wash the dust off a bit." 

After I came down, I think she did not quite know what to 
do with me ; or she might think that I was dull ; or she might 
have work to do in which I hindered her ; for she called Phillis, 
and bade her put on her bonnet, and go with me to the Ash- 
field, and find father. So we set off, I in a little flutter of a 
desire to make myself agreeable, but wishing that my com- 
panion were not quite so tall ; for she was above me in height. 
While I was wondering how to begin our conversation, she 
took up the words. 

"I suppose, cousin Paul, you have to be very busy at your 
work all day long in general?" 

' ' Yes, we have to be in the office at half-past eight ; and we have 
an hour for dinner, and then we go at it again till eight or nine." 

"Then you have not much time for reading?" 

" No," said I, with a sudden consciousness that I did not 
make the most of what leisure I had. 

" No more have I. Father always gets an hour before going 
a-field in the mornings, but mother does not like me to get up 
so early." 

"My mother is always wanting me to get up earlier when 
I am at home." 



178 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

"What time do you get up?" 

" Oh !— ah ! — sometimes half-past six; not often though;" 
for I remembered only twice that I had done so during the 
past summer. 

She turned her head, and looked at me. 

' ' Father is up at three ; and so was mother till she was ill. 
I should like to be up at four." 

* ' Your father up at three ! Why, what has he to do at that 
hour?" 

"What has he not to do? He has his private exercise in his 
own room ; he always rings the great bell which calls the men 
to milking ; he rouses up Betty, our maid ; as often as not he 
, gives the horses their feed before the man is up — for Jem, who 
takes care of the horses, is an old man; and father is always 
' loth to disturb him ; he looks at the calves, and the shoulders, 
heels, traces, chaff, and corn before the horses go a-field ; he 
has often to whip-cord the plough-whips ; he sees the hogs 
fed ; he looks into the swill-tubs, and writes his orders for what 
is wanted for food for man and beast ; yes, and for fuel, too. 
And then, if he has a bit of time to spare, he comes in and 
reads with me— but only Enghsh ; we keep Latin for the even- 
ings, that we- may have time to enjoy it ; and then he calls in 
the man to breakfast, and cuts the boys' bread and cheese, 
and sees their wooden bottles filled, and sends them off to 
their work ; — and by this time it is half-past six, and we have 
our breakfast. There is father ! " she exclaimed, pointing out to 
me a man in his shirt-sleeves, taller by the head than the other 
two with whom he was working. We only saw him through 
the leaves of the ash-trees growing in the hedge, and I thought 
I must be confusing the figures, or mistaken : that man still 
looked like a very powerful labourer, and had none of the pre- 
cise demureness of appearance which I had always imagined 
was the characteristic of a minister. It was the Reverend 
Ebenezer Holman, however. He gave us a nod as we entered 
the stubble-field; and I think he would have come to meet us 
but that he was in the middle of giving some directions to his 
men. I could see that Phillis was built more after his type 
than her mother's. He, like his daughter, was largely made, 
and of a fair, ruddy complexion, whereas hers was brilliant 
and delicate. His hair had been yellow or sandy, but now was 
grizzled. Yet his grey hairs betokened no failure in strength. 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 179. 

T nev^r saw a more powerful man — deep chest, lean flanks, 
well-planted head. By this time we were nearly up to him ; 
and he interrupted himself and stepped forwards ; holding out 
his hand to me, but addressing Phillis. 

"Well, my lass, this is cousin Manning, I suppose. Wait 
a minute, young man, and I'll put on my coat, and give you 

a decorous and formal welcome. But Ned Hall, there 

ought to be a water-furrow across this land : it's a nasty, 
stiff, clayey, dauby bit of ground, and thou and I must fall 
to, come next Monday — I beg your pardon, cousin Manning 
— and there's old Jem's cottage wants a bit of thatch ; you 
can do that job to-morrow while I am busy." Then, suddenly 
changing the tone of his deep bass voice to an odd suggestion 
of chapels and preachers, he added, " Now, I will give out the 
psalm, ' Come all harmonious tongues,' to be sung to * Mount 
Ephraim ' tune." 

He lifted his spade in his hand, and began to beat time with 
it ; the two labourers seemed to know both words and music, 
though I did not ; and so did Phillis : her rich voice followed 
her father's as he set the tune ; and the men came in with more 
uncertainty, but still harmoniously. Phillis looked at me once 
or twice with a little surprise at my silence ; but I did not know 
the words. There we five stood, bareheaded, excepting Phillis, 
in the tawny stubble-field, from which all the shocks of corn had 
not yet been carried — a dark wood on one side, where the wood- 
pigeons were cooing ; blue distance seen through the ash-trees 
on the other. Somehow, I think that if I had known the words, 
.and could have sung, my throat would have been choked up by 
the feeling of the unaccustomed scene. 

The hymn was ended, and the men had drawn off before I 
could stir. I saw the minister beginning to put on his coat, and 
looking at me with friendly inspection in his gaze, before I could 
rouse myself. 

"I daresay you railway gentlemen don't wind up the day 
with singing a psalm together," said he ; " but it is not a bad 
practice — not a bad practice. We have had it a bit earlier 
to-day for hospitality's sake — that's all." 

I had nothing particular to say to this, though I was thinking 
a great deal. From time to time I stole a look at my com- 
panion. His coat was black, and so was his waistcoat ; neck- 
cloth he had none, his strong full throat being bare above the 



l8o COUSIN PHILLIS. 

snow-white shirt. He wore drab-coloured knee-breeches, grey- 
worsted stockings (I thought I knew the maker), and strong- 
nailed shoes. He carried his hat in his hand, as if he hked to 
feel the coming breeze lifting his hair. After a while, I saw 
that the father took hold of the daughter's hand, and so, they 
holding each other, went along towards home. We had to 
cross a lane. In it there were two little children — one lying 
prone on the grass in a passion of crying ; the other standing 
stock still, with its finger in its mouth, the large tears slowly 
rolling down its cheeks for sympathy. The cause of their 
distress was evident ; there was a broken brown pitcher, and 
a little pool of spilt milk on the road. 

" Hollo ! hollo ! What's all this ? " said the minister. " Why, 
what have you been about. Tommy?" lifting the little petti- 
-coated lad, who was lying sobbing, with one vigorous arm. 
Tommy looked at him with surprise in his round eyes, but no 
affright — they were evidently old acquaintances. 

" Mammy's jug ! " said he at last, beginning to cry afresh. 

" Well ! and will crying piece mammy's jug, or pick up spilt 
milk? How did you manage it, Tommy?" 

" He" (jerking his head at the other) " and me was running 
races." 

" Tommy said he could beat me," put in the other. 

" Now, I wonder what will make you two silly lads mind, and 
not run races again with a pitcher of milk between you," said the 
minister, as if musing. " I might flog you, and so save mammy 
the trouble; for I daresay she'll do it if I don't." The fresh 
burst of whimpering from both showed the probability of this. 
" Or I might take you to the Hope Farm, and give you some 
more milk ; but then you'd be running races again, and my milk 
would follow that to the ground, and make another white pool. 
I think the flogging would be best— don't you?" 

" We would never run races no more," said the elder of the two. 

" Then you'd not be boys ; you'd be angels." 

" No, we shouldn't." 

"Why not?" 

They looked into each other's eyes for an answer to this puzzling 
question. At length, one said, " Angels is dead folk." 

" Come ; we'll not get too deep into theology. What do you 
think of my lending you a tin can with a lid to carry the milk 
home in? That would not break, at any rate; though I 



COUSIN PHILLIS. I8l 

would not answer for the milk not spilling if you ran races. 
That's it ! " 

He had dropped his daughter's hand, and now held out each of 
his to the httle fellows. PhiUis and I followed, and listened to 
the prattle which the minister's companions now poured out to 
him, and which he was evidently enjoying. At a certain point, 
there was a sudden burst of the tawny, ruddy-evening landscape. 
The minister turned round and quoted a line or two of Latin. 

"It's wonderful," said he, "how exactly Virgil has hit the 
enduring epithets, nearly two thousand years ago, and in Italy ; 
and yet how it describes to a T what is now lying before us in 
the parish of Heathbridge, county , England." 

"I dare say it does," said I, all aglow with shame, for I had 
forgotten the little Latin I ever knew. 

The minister shifted his eyes to Phillis's face ; it mutely gave 
him back the sympathetic appreciation that I, in my ignorance, 
could not bestow. 

"Oh! this is worse than the catechism," thought I; "that 
was only remembering words." 

" Phillis, lass, thou must go home with these lads, and tell 
their mother all about the race and the milk. Mammy must 
always know the truth," now speaking to the children. "And 
tell her, too, from me that I have got the best birch rod in the 
parish ; and that if she ever thinks her children want a flogging 
she must bring them to me, and, if I think they deserve it, I'll 
give it them better than she can." So Phillis led the children 
towards the dairy, somewhere in the back-yard, and I followed 
the minister in through the " curate" into the house-place. 

"Their mother," said he, "is a bit of a vixen, and apt to 
punish her children without rhyme or reason. I try to keep 
the parish rod as well as the parish bull." 

He sate down in the three-cornered chair by the fireside, and 
looked around the empty room. 

" Where's the missus ? " said he to himself. But she was there 
in a minute ; it was her regular plan to give him his welcome 
home — by a look, by a touch, nothing more — as soon as she 
could after his return, and he had missed her now. Regardless 
of my presence, he went over the day's doings to her ; and then, 
getting up, he said he must go and make himself "reverend," 
and that then we would have a cup of tea in the parlour. The 
parlour was a large room with two casemented windows on the 



l82 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

other side of the broad flagged passage leading from the rector- 
door to the wide staircase, with its shallow, polished oaken steps, 
on which no carpet was ever laid. The parlour-floor was covered 
in the middle by a home-made carpeting of needlework and list. 
One or two quaint family pictures of the Holman family hung 
round the walls ; the fire-grate and irons were much ornamented 
with brass ; and on a table against the wall between the windows, 
a great beau-pot of flowers was placed upon the folio volumes of 
Matthew Henry's Bible. It was a compliment to me to use this 
room, and I tried to be grateful for it ; but we never had our 
meals there after that first day, and I was glad of it ; for the large 
house-place, living-room, dining-room, whichever you might like 
to call it, was twice as comfortable and cheerful. There was a 
rug in front of the great large fireplace, and an oven by the 
grate, and a crook, with the kettle hanging from it, over the 
bright wood-fire ; everything that ought to be black and polished 
in that room v/as black and polished ; and the flags, and window- 
curtains, and such things as were to be white and clean, were 
just spotless in their purity. Opposite to the fireplace, extend- 
ing the whole length of the room, was an oaken shovel-board, 
with the right incline for a skilful player to send the weights into 
the prescribed space. There were baskets of white work about, 
and a small shelf of books hung against the wall, books used for 
reading, and not for propping up a beau-pot of flowers. I took 
down one or two of those books once when I was left alone in 
the house-place on the first evening — Virgil, Caesar, a Greek 
grammar — oh, dear ! ah, me ! and Phillis Holman's name in 
each of them ! I shut them up, and put them back in their 
places, and walked as far away from the bookshelf as I could. 
Yes, and I gave my cousin Phillis a wide berth, although she 
was sitting at her work quietly enough, and her hair was looking 
more golden, her dark eyelashes longer, her round pillar of a 
throat whiter than ever. We had done tea, and we had returned 
into the house-place that the minister might smoke his pipe with- 
out fear of contaminating the drab damask window-curtains of 
the parlour. He had made himself " reverend " by putting on 
one of the voluminous white muslin neckcloths that I had seen 
cousin Holman ironing that first visit I had paid to the Hope 
Farm, and by making one or two other unimportant changes in 
his dress. He sate looking steadily at me, but whether he saw 
me or not I cannot tell. At the time I fancied that he did, and 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 183 

was gauginor nie in some unknown fashion in his secret mind. 
Every now and then he took his pipe out of his mouth, knocked 
out the ashes, and asked me some fresh question. As long as 
these related to my acquirements or my reading, I shuffled un- 
easily and did not know what to answer. By-and-by he got 
round to the more practical subject of railroads, and on this I 
was more at home. I really had taken an interest in my work ; 
nor would Mr. Holdsworth, indeed, have kept me in his emplo}^- 
ment if I had not given my mind as well as my time to it ; and 
I was, besides, full of the difficulties which beset us just then, 
owing to our not being able to find a steady bottom on the 
Heathbridge moss, over which we wished to carry our line. In 
the midst of all my eagerness in speaking about this, I could not 
help being struck with the extreme pertinence of his questions. 
I do not mean that he did not show ignorance of many of the 
details of engineering : that was to have been expected ; but on 
the premises he had got hold of, he thought clearly and reasoned 
logically. PhiUis — so like him as she was both in body and 
mind — kept stopping at her work and looking at me, trying to 
fully understand all that I said. I felt she did ; and perhaps it 
made me take more pains in using clear expressions, and arrang- 
ing my words, than I otherwise should. 

"She shall see I know something worth knowing, though it 
mayn't be her dead-and-gone languages," thought I. 

"I see," said the minister at length. "I understand it all. 
You've a clear, good head of your own, my lad — choose how 
you came by it." 

"From my father," said I proudly. "Have you not heard 
of his discovery of a new method of shunting? It was in the 
Gazette. It was patented. I thought every one had heard of 
Manning's patent winch." 

"We don't know who invented the alphabet," said he, half 
smiling, and taking up his pipe. 

" No, I dare say not, sir," replied I, half offended ; " that's so 
long ago." 

Puff— puff— puff. 

"But your father must be a notable man. I heard of him 
once before ; and it is not many a one fifty miles away whose 
fame reaches Heathbridge." 

" My father is a notable man, sir. It is not me that says so ; 
it is Mr. Holdsworth, and — and everybody." 



l84 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

" He is right to stand up for his father," said cousin Holman, 
as if she were pleading for me. 

I chafed inwardly, thinking that my father needed no one to 
stand up for him. He was man sufficient for himself. 

"Yes — he is right," said the minister placidly. " Right, be- 
cause it comes from his heart— riglit, too, as I believe in point of 
fact. Else there is many a young cockerel that will stand upon 
a dunghill and crow about his father, by way of making his 
own plumage to shine. I should like to know thy father," he 
went on, turning straight to me, with a kindly, frank look in 
his eyes. 

But I was vexed, and would take no notice. Presently, hav- 
ing finished his pipe, he got up and left the room. PhiUis put 
her work hastily down, and went after him. In a minute or two 
she returned, and sate down again. Not long after, and before 
I had quite recovered my good temper, he opened the door out 
of which he had passed, and called to me to come to him. I 
went across a narrow stone passage into a strange, many- 
cornered room, not ten feet in area, part study, part counting- 
house, looking into the farmyard ; with a desk to sit at, a desk 
to stand at, a spittoon, a set of shelves with old divinity books 
upon them ; another, smaller, filled with books on farriery, farm- 
ing, manures, and such subjects, with pieces of paper containing 
memoranda stuck against the whitewashed walls with wafers, 
nails, pins, anything that came readiest to hand ; a box of 
carpenter's tools on the floor, and some manuscripts in short- 
hand on the desk. 

He turned round half laughing. "That foolish girl of mine 
thinks I have vexed you," — putting his large, powerful hand on 
my shoulder. " ' Nay,' says I ; ' kindly meant is kindly taken ' 
— is it not so ? " 

" It was not quite, sir," replied I, vanquished by his manner ; 
" but it shall be in future." 

"Come, that's right. You and I shall be friends. Indeed, 
it's not many a one I would bring in here. But I was reading a 
book this morning, and I could not make it out ; it is a book 
that was left here by mistake one day ; I had subscribed to 
Brother Robinson's sermons ; and I was glad to see this instead 
of them, for sermons though they be, they're . . . well, never 
mind ! I took 'em both, and made my old coat do a bit longer ; 
but all's fish that comes to my net. I have fewer books than 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 185 

leisure to read them, and I have a prodigious big appetite. 
Here it is." 

It was a volume of stiff mechanics, involving many technical 
terms, and some rather deep mathematics. These last, which 
would have puzzled me, seemed easy enough to him ; all that he 
wanted was the explanations of the technical words, which I 
could easily give. 

While he was looking through the book to find the places 
where he had been puzzled, my wandering eye caught on some 
of the papers on the wall, and I could not help reading one, 
which has stuck by me ever since. At first, it seemed a kind of 
weekly diary ; but then I saw that the seven days were por- 
tioned out for special prayers and intercessions : Monday for his 
family, Tuesday for enemies, Wednesday for the Independent 
churches, Thursday for all other churches, Friday for persons 
afflicted, Saturday for his own soul, Sunday for all wanderers 
and sinners, that they might be brought home to the fold. 

We were called back into the house-place to have supper. A 
door opening into the kitchen was opened ; and all stood up in 
both rooms, while the minister, tall, large, one hand resting on 
the spread table, the other lifted up, said, in the deep voice that 
would have been loud had it not been so full and rich, but with 
the peculiar accent or twang that I believe is considered devout 
by some people, "Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we 
do, let us do all to the glory of God." 

The supper was an immense meat pie. We of the house- 
place were helped first ; then the minister hit the handle of his 
buckhorn carving-knife on the table once, and said — 

" Now or never," which meant, did any of us want any more ; 
and when we had all declined, either by silence or by words, he 
knocked twice with his knife on the table, and Bettty came in 
through the open door, and carried off the great dish to the 
kitchen, where an old man and a young one, and a help-girl, 
were awaiting their meal. 

" Shut the door, if you will," said the minister to Betty. 

" That's in honour of you," said cousin Holman, in a tone of 
satisfaction, as the door was shut. " When we've no stranger 
with us, the minister is so fond of keeping the door open, and 
talking to the men and maids, just as much as to Phillis and me." 

"It brings us all together, like a household, just before we 
meet as a household in prayer," said he in explanation. " But 



1 86 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

to go back to what we were talking about — can you tell me of 
any simple book on dynamics that I could put in my pocket, 
and study a little at leisure times in the day ? " 

" Leisure times, father?" said Philhs, with a nearer approach 
to a smile than I had yet seen on her face. 

" Yes ; leisure times, daughter. There is many an odd minute 
lost in waiting for other folk ; and now that railroads are coming 
so near us, it behoves us to know something about them." 

I thought of his own description of his "prodigious big 
appetite " for learning. And he had a good appetite of his own 
for the more material victual before him. But I saw, or fancied 
I saw, that he had some rule for himself in the matter both of 
food and drink. 

As soon as supper was done the household assembled for 
prayer. It was a long impromptu evening prayer ; and it would 
have seemed desultory enough had I not had a glimpse of the 
kind of day that preceded it, and so been able to find a clue to 
the thoughts that preceded the disjointed utterances ; for he kept 
there kneeling down in the centre of a circle, his eyes shut, his 
outstretched hands pressed palm to palm — sometimes with a 
long pause of silence, as if waiting to see if there was anything 
else he wished to "lay before the Lord" (to use his own 
expression) — before he concluded with the blessing. He prayed 
for the cattle and live creatures, rather to my surprise ; for my 
atttention had begun to wander, till it was recalled by the 
familiar words. 

And here I must not forget to name an odd incident at the 
conclusion of the prayer, and before we had risen from our knees 
(indeed, before Betty was well awake, for she made a nightly 
practice of having a sound nap, her weary head lying on her 
stalwart arms) ; the minister, still kneeling in our midst, but with 
his eyes wide open, and his arms dropped by his side, spoke to 
the elder man, who turned round on his knees to attend. "John, 
didst see that Daisy had her warm mash to-night ; for we must 
not neglect the means, John, — two quarts of gruel, a spoonful 
of ginger, and a gill of beer — the poor beast needs it, and I fear 
it slipped out of my mind to tell thee ; and here was I asking a 
blessing and neglecting the means, which is a mockery," said 
he, dropping his voice. 

Before we went to bed he told me he should see little or nothing 
more of me during my visit, which was to end on Sunday evening, 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 187 

as he always gave up both Saturday and Sabbath to his work in 
the ministry. I remembered that the landlord at the inn had 
told me this on the day when I first inquired about these new 
relations of mine ; and I did not dislike the opportunity which I 
saw would be afforded me of becoming more acquainted with 
cousin Holman and Phillis, though I earnestly hoped that the 
latter would not attack me on the subject of the dead languages. 

I went to bed, and dreamed that I was as tall as cousin 
Philhs, and had a sudden and miraculous growth of whisker, 
and a still more miraculous acquaintance with Latin and Greek. 
Alas! I wakened up still a short, beardless lad, with '' tempus 
fugit " for my sole remembrance of the little Latin I had once 
learnt. While I was dressing, a bright thought came over me : 
I could question cousin Phillis, instead of her questioning me, 
and so manage to keep the choice of the subjects of conversation 
in my own power. 

Early as it was, every one had breakfasted, and my basin of 
bread and milk was put on the oven-top to await my coming 
down. Every one was gone about their work. The first to come 
into the house-place was Phillis with a basket of eggs. Faithful 
to my resolution, I asked — 

" What are those?" 

She looked at me for a moment, and then said gravely — 

" Potatoes ! " 

*' No ! they are not," said L " They are eggs. What do you 
mean by saying they are potatoes ? " 

"What do you mean by asking me what they were, when they 
were plain to be seen?" retorted she. 

We were both getting a little angry with each other. 

"I don't know. I wanted to begin to talk to you ; and I was 
afraid you would talk to me about books as you did yesterday. 
I have not read nuich ; and you and the minister have read so 
much." 

" I have not," said she. " But you are our guest ; and mother 
. says I must m.ake it pleasant to you. We won't talk of books. 
,What must we talk about?" 

" I don't know. How old are you?" 

" Seventeen last May. How old are ycu? " 

"I am nineteen. Older than you by nearly two years," said 
I, drawing myself up to my full height. 

"I should not have thought you were above sixteen," she 



J 88 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

replied, as quietly as if she were not saying the most provoking 
thing she possibly could. Then came a pause. 

" What are you going to do now?" asked I. 

"I should be dusting the bed-chambers; but mother said I 
had better stay and make it pleasant to you," said she, a little 
plaintively, as if dusting rooms was far the easiest task. 

"Will you take me to see the Hve-stock? I like animals, 
though I don't know much about them." 

"Oh, do you. I am so glad. I was afraid you would not 
like animals, as you did not like books.'* 

I wondered why she said this. I think it was because she 
had begun to fancy all our tastes must be dissimilar. We went 
together all through the farmyard ; we fed the poultry, she 
kneeling down with her pinafore full of corn and meal, and 
tempting the little timid, downy chickens upon it, much to the 
anxiety of the fussy ruffled hen, their mother. She called to 
the pigeons, who fluttered down at the sound of her voice. She 
and I examined the great sleek cart-horses ; sympathised in our 
dislike of pigs ; fed the calves, coaxed the sick cow, Daisy ; and 
admired the others out at pasture; and came back tired and 
hungry and dirty at dinner-time, having quite forgotten that 
there were such things as dead languages, and consequently 
capital friends. 



PART II. 

Cousin Holman gave me the weekly county newspaper to read 
aloud to her, while she mended stockings out of a high piled-up 
basket, PhiUis helping her mother, I read and read, unregardful 
of the words I was uttering, thinking of all manner of other 
things ; of the bright colour of Phillis's hair, as the afternoon 
sun fell on her bending head ; of the silence of the house, which 
enabled me to hear the double tick of the old clock which stood 
half-way up the stairs ; of the variety of inarticulate noises which 
cousin Holman made while I read, to show her sympathy, 
wonder, or horror at the newspaper intelligence. The tranquil 
monotony of that hour made me feel as if I had lived for ever, 
and should live for ever droning out paragraphs in that warm 
sunny room, with my two quiet hearers, and the curled-up pussy 
'Cat sleeping on the hearthrug, and the clock on the house-stairs 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 189 

perpetually clicking out the passage of the moments. By-and-by 
Betty the servant came to the door into the kitchen, and made 
a sign to Phillis, who put her half-mended stocking down, and 
went away to the kitchen without a word. Looking at cousin 
Holman a minute or two afterwards, I saw that she had dropped 
her chin upon her breast, and had fallen fast asleep. I put the 
newspaper down, and was nearly following her example, when 
a waft of air from some unseen source slightly opened the door 
of communication with the kitchen, that PhilHs nmst have left 
unfastened ; and I saw part of her figure as she sate by the 
dresser, peeling apples with quick dexterity of finger, but with 
repeated turnings of her head towards some book lying on the 
dresser by her. I softly rose, and as softly went into the kit- 
chen, and looked over her shoulder ; before she was aware of 
my neighbourhood, I had seen that the book was in a language 
unknown to me, and the running title was " L'Inferno." Just 
as I was making out the relationship of this word to " infernal," 
she started and turned round, and, as if continuing her thought 
as she spoke, she sighed out — 

"Oh! it is so difficult! Can you help me?" putting her 
finger below a line. 

"Me! I! Not I! I don't even know what language it 
is in ! " 

" Don't you see it is Dante?" she replied, almost petulantly ; 
she did so want help. 

" Italian, then? " said I dubiously ; for I was not quite sure. 

"Yes. And I do so want to make it out. Father can help 
me a little, for he knows Latin ; but then he has so little time." 

"You have not much, I should think, if you have often to try 
and do two things at once, as you are doing now." 

"Oh! that's nothing! Father bought a heap of old books 
cheap. And I knew something about Dante before ; and I 
have always liked Virgil so much. Paring apples is nothing, if 
I could only make out this old Italian. I wish you knew it." 

"I wish I did," said I, moved by her impetuosity of tone. 
" If, now, only Mr. Holdsworth were here ; he can speak Italian 
like anything, I believe." 

"Who is Mr. Holdsworth?" said Phillis, looking up. 

" Oh, he's our head engineer. He's a regular first-rate fellow I 
He can do anything ; " my hero-worship and my pride in my 
chief all coming into play. Besides, if I was not clever and 



IQO COUSIN PHILLIS. 

book-learned myself, it was something to belong to some one 
who was. 

" Plow is it that he speaks Italian?" asked Phillis. 

"He had to make a railway through Piedmont, which is in 
Italy, I believe ; and he had to talk to all the workmen in 
Italian ; and I have heard him say that for nearly two years 
he had only Italian books to read in the queer outlandish places 
he was in." 

" Oh, dear ! " said Phillis ; " I wish "—and then she stopped. 
I was not quite sure whether to say the next thing that came 
into my mind ; but I said it. 

"Could I ask him anything about your book, or your diffi- 
culties?" 

She was silent for a minute or so, and then she made reply — 

" No ! I think not. Thank you very much, though. I can 
generally puzzle a thing out in time. And then, perhaps, I re- 
member it better than if some one had helped me. I'll put it 
away now, and you must move off, for I've got to make the 
paste for the pies ; we always have a cold dinner on Sabbaths." 

" But I may stay and help you, mayn't I?" 

" Oh, yes ; not that you can help at all, but I like to have you 
with me." 

I was both flattered and annoyed at this straightforward avowal. 
I was pleased that she liked me ; but I was young coxcomb 
enough to have wished to play the lover, and I was quite wise 
enough to perceive that if she had any idea of the kind in her 
head she would never have spoken out so frank]y. I comforted 
myself immediately, however, by finding out that the grapes 
were sour. A great tall girl in a pinafore, half a head taller 
than I was, reading books that I had never heard of, and talking 
about them too, as of far more interest than any mere personal 
subjects ; that was the last day on which I ever thought of my 
dear cousin Phillis as the possible mistress of my heart and life. 
But we were all the greater friends for this idea being utterly put 
away and buried out of sight. 

Late in the evening the minister came home from Hornby. He 
had been calling on the different members of his flock ; and un- 
satisfactory work it had proved to him, it seemed, from the frag- 
ments that dropped out of his thoughts into his talk. 

' ' I don't see the men ; they are all at their business, their shops, 
or their warehouses ; they ought to be there. I have no fault to 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 191 

find with them ; only if a pastor's teaching or words of admoni- 
tion are good for anything, they are needed by the men as much 
as by the women." 

" Cannot you go and see them in their places of business, and 
remind them of their Christian privileges and duties, minister?" 
asked cousin Holman, who evidently thought that her husband's 
words could never be out of place. 

" No ! " said he, shaking his head. " I judge them by myself. 
If there are clouds in the sky, and I am getting in the hay just 
ready for loading, and rain sure to come in the night, I should 
look ill upon Brother Robinson if he came into the field to speak 
about serious things." 

" But, at any rate, father, you do good to the women, and 
perhaps they repeat what you have said to them to their hus- 
bands and children ? " 

" It is to be hoped they do, for I cannot reach the men directly ; 
but the women are apt to tarry before coming to me, to put on 
ribbons and gauds ; as if they could hear the message I bear to 
them best in their smart clothes. Mrs. Dobson to-day — Phillis, 
I am thankful thou dost not care for the vanities of dress ! " 

Phillis reddened a little as she said, in a low humble voice — 

"But I do, father, I'm afraid. I often wish I could wear 
pretty - coloured ribbons round my throat hke the squire's 
daughters." 

" It's but natural, minister ! " said his wife ; " I'm not above 
liking a silk gown better than a cotton one myself ! " 

"The love of dress is a temptation and a snare," said he 
gravely. ' ' The true adornment is a meek and quiet spirit. And, 
wife," said he, as a sudden thought crossed his mind, "in that 
matter I, too, have sinned. I wanted to ask you, could we not 
sleep in the grey room, instead of our own ? " 

"Sleep in the grey room?— change our room at this time o' 
day ! " cousin Holman asked, in dismay. 

"Yes," said he. " It would save me from a daily temptation 
to anger. Look at my chin!" he continued ; "I cut it this 
morning — I cut it on Wednesday when I was shaving ; I do not 
know how many times I have cut it of late, and all from im- 
patience at seeing Timothy Cooper at his work in the yard." 

" He's a downright lazy tyke 1 " said cousin Holman. " He's 
not worth his wage. There's but Httle he can do, and what he 
can do, he does badly." 



192 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

"True," said the minister. "But he is but, so to speak, a 
half-wit ; and yet he has got a wife and children." 

" More shame for him ! " 

" But that is past change. And if I turn him off, no one else 
will take him on. Yet I cannot help watching him of a morning 
as he goes sauntering about his work in the yard ; and I watch, 
and I watch, till the old Adam rises strong within me at his lazy 
ways, and some day, I am afraid, I shall go down and send him 
about his business — let alone the way in which he makes me cut 
myself while I am shaving — and then his wife and children will 
starve. I wish we could move to the grey room." 

I do not remember much more of my first visit to the Hope 
Farm. We went to chapel in Heathbridge, slowly and deco- 
rously walking along the lanes, ruddy and tawny with the 
colouring of the coming autumn. The minister walked a little 
before us, his hands behind his back, his head bent down, think- 
ing about the discourse to be delivered to his people, cousin 
Holman said ; and we spoke low and quietly, in order not to 
interrupt his thoughts. But I could not help noticing the re- 
spectful greetings which he received from both rich and poor 
as we went along ; greetings which he acknowledged with a 
kindly wave of his hand, but with no words of reply. As we 
drew near the town, I could see some of the young fellows we 
met cast admiring looks on Phillis ; and that made me look too. 
She had on a white gown, and a short black silk cloak, according 
to the fasliion of the day. A straw bonnet, with brown ribbon 
strings ; that was all. But what her djess wanted in colour, her 
sweet bonny face had. The walk made her cheeks bloom like 
the rose ; the very whites of her eyes had a blue tinge in them, 
and her dark eyelashes brought out the depth of the blue eyes 
themselves. Her yellow hair was put away as straight as its 
natural curliness would allow. If she did not perceive the ad- 
miration she excited, I am sure cousin Holman did ; for she 
looked as fierce and as proud as ever her quiet face could look, 
guarding her treasure, and yet glad to perceive that others could 
see that it was a treasure. That afternoon I had to return to 
Eltham to be ready for the next day's work. I found out after- 
wards that the minister and his family were all " exercised in 
spirit," as to whether they did well in asking me to repeat my 
visits at the Hope Farm, seeing that of necessity I must return 
to Eltham on the Sabbath-day. However, they did go on asking 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 193 

me, and I went on visiting them, whenever my other engage- 
ments permitted me, Mr. Holdsworth being in this case, as in 
all, a kind and indulgent friend. Nor did my new acquaintances 
oust him from my strong regard and admiration. I had room 
in my heart for all, I am happy to say, and as far as I can re- 
member, I kept praising each to the other in a manner which, 
if I had been an older man, living more amongst people of the 
world, I should have thought unwise, as well as a little ridiculous. 
It was unwise, certainly, as it was almost sure to cause disappoint- 
ment if ever they did become acquainted ; and perhaps it was 
ridiculous, though I do not think we any of us thought it so at 
the time. The minister used to listen to my accounts of Mr. 
Holdsworth's many accomplishments and various adventures in 
travel with the truest interest, and most kindly good faith ; and 
Mr. Holdsworth in return liked to hear about my visits to the 
farm, and description of my cousins' life there— liked it, I mean, 
as much as he liked anything that was merely narrative, without 
leading to action. 

So I went to the farm certainly, on an average, once a month 
during that autumn ; the course of life there was so peaceful and 
quiet, that I can only remember one small event, and that was 
one that I think I took more notice of than any one else : Phillis 
left off wearing the pinafores that had always been so obnoxious 
to me : I do not know why they were banished, but on one of my 
visits I found them replaced by pretty linen aprons in the morning, 
and a black silk one in the afternoon. And the blue cotton gown 
became a brown stuff one as winter drew on ; this sounds like 
some book I once read, in which a migration from the blue bed to 
the brown was spoken of as a great family event. 

Towards Christmas my dear father came to see me, and to 
consult Mr. Holdsworth about the improvement which has since 
been known as "Manning's driving wheel." Mr. Holdsworth, as 
I think I have before said, had a very great regard for my father, 
who had been employed in the same great machine-shop in which 
Mr. Holdsworth had served his apprenticeship ; and he and my 
father had many mutual jokes about one of these gentlemen- 
apprentices who used to set about his smith's work in white 
wash-leather gloves, for fear of spoiling his hands. Mr. Holds- 
worth often spoke to me about my father as having the same kind 
of genius for mechanical invention as that of George Stephenson, 
and my father had come over now to consult him about several 

G 



194 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

improvements, as well as an offer of partnership. It was a great 
pleasure to me to see the mutual regard of these two men. 
Mr. Holdsworth, young, handsome, keen, well-dressed, an object 
of admiration to all the youth of Eltham ; my father, in his 
decent but unfashionable Sunday clothes, his plain, sensible face 
full of hard lines, the marks of toil and thought, — his hands, 
blackened beyond the power of soap and water by years of 
labour in the foundry ; speaking a strong Northern dialect, while 
Mr. Holdsworth had a long soft drawl in his voice, as many of 
the Southerners have, and was reckoned in Eltham to give him- 
self airs. 

Although most of my father's leisure time was occupied with 
conversations about the business I have mentioned, he felt that 
he ought not to leave Eltham without going to pay his respects 
to the relations who had been so kind to his son. So he and I 
ran up on an engine along the incomplete line as far as Heath- 
bridge, and went, by invitation, to spend a day at the farm. 

It was odd and yet pleasant to me to perceive how these two 
men, each having led up to this point such totally dissimilar 
lives, seemed to come together by instinct, after one quiet straight 
look into each other's faces. My father was a thin, wiry man 
of five foot seven ; the minister was a broad-shouldered, fresh- 
coloured man of six foot one ; they were neither of them great 
talkers in general — perhaps the minister the most so — but they 
spoke much to each other. My father went into the fields with 
the minister ; I think I see him now, with his hands behind his 
back, listening intently to all explanations of tillage, and the 
different processes of farming ; occasionally taking up an imple- 
ment, as if unconsciously, and examining it with a critical eye> 
and now and then asking a question, which I could see was con- 
sidered as pertinent by his companion. Then we returned to look 
at the cattle, housed and bedded in expectation of the snowstorm 
hanging black on the western horizon, and my father learned the 
points of a cow with as much attention as if he meant to turn 
farmer. He had his little book that he used for mechanical 
memoranda and measurements in his pocket, and he took it out 
to write down "straight back," "small muzzle," " deep barrel," 
and I know not what else, under the head " cow." He was very 
critical on a turnip-cutting machine, the clumsiness of which first 
incited him to talk ; and when we went into the house he sat 
thinking and quiet for a bit, while PhiUis and her mother made 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 195 

the last preparations for tea, with a little unheeded apology from 
cousin Hoiman, because we were not sitting in the best parlour, 
which she thought might be chilly on so cold a night. I wanted 
nothing better than the blazing, crackling fire that sent a glow 
over all the house-place, and warmed the snowy flags under otir 
feet till they seemed to have more heat than the crimson rug 
right in front of the fire. After tea, as Phillis and I were talk- 
ing together very happily, I heard an irrepressible exclamation 
from cousin Hoiman — 

" Whatever is the man about ! " 

And on looking round, I saw my father taking a straight 
burning stick out of the fire, and, after waiting for a minute, 
and examining the charred end to see if it was fitted for his 
purpose, he w'ent to the hard-wood dresser, scoured to the last 
pitch of whiteness and cleanliness, and began drawing with the 
stick ; the best substitute for chalk or charcoal within his reach, 
for his pocket-book pencil was not strong or bold enough for his 
purpose. When he had done, he began to explain his new 
model of a turnip-cutting machine to the minister, who had 
been watching him in si'ence all the time. Cousin Hoiman had, 
in the meantime, taken a duster out of a drawer, and, under 
pretence of being as much interested as her husband in the 
drawing, was secretly trying on an outside mark how easily it 
would come off, and whether it would leave her dresser as white 
as before. Then Phillis was sent for the book on dynamics, 
about which I had been consulted during my first visit, and my 
father had to explain many difficulties, which he did in language 
as clear as his mind, making drawings with his stick wherever 
they were needed as illustrations, the minister sitting with his 
massive head resting on his hands, his elbows on the table, almost 
unconscious of Phillis, leaning over and listening greedily, with 
her hand on his shoulder, sucking in information like her father's 
own daughter. I was rather sorry for cousin Hoiman ; I had 
been so once or twice before ; for do what she would, she was 
completely unable even to understand the pleasure her husband 
and daughter took in intellectual pursuits, much less to care in 
the least herself for the pursuits themselves, and was thus un- 
avoidably throw^n out of some of their interests. I had once or 
twice thought she was a little jealous of her own child, as a fitter 
companion for her husband than she was herself; and I fancied 
the minister himself was aware of this feeling, for I had noticed 



196 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

an occasional sudden change of subject, and a tenderness of 
appeal in his voice as he spoke to her, which always made her look 
contented and peaceful again. I do not think that PhiUis ever 
perceived these Httle shadows ; in the first place, she had such 
complete reverence for her parents that she listened to them both 
as if they had been St. Peter and St. Paul ; and besides, she was 
always too much engrossed with any matter in hand to think 
about other people's manners and looks. 

This night I could see, though she did not, how much she was 
winning on my father. She asked a few questions which showed 
that she had followed his explanations up to that point ; possibly, 
too, her unusual beauty might have something to do with his 
favourable impression of her ; but he made no scruple of express- 
ing his admiration of her to her father and mother in her absence 
from the room ; and from that evening I date a project of his 
which came out to me a day or two afterwards, as we sate in my 
little three-cornered room in Eltham. 

" Paul," he began, " I never thought to be a rich man ; but I 
think it's coming upon me. Some folk are making a deal of my 
new machine " (calling it by its technical name), "and Ellison, of 
the Borough Green Works, has gone so far as to ask me to be his 
parner." 

" Mr Ellison the justice !— who lives in King Street? why, he 
drives his carriage ! " said I, doubting, yet exultant. 

"Ay, lad, John Ellison. But that's no sign that I shall drive 
my carriage. Though I should like to save thy mother walking, 
for she's not so young as she was. But that's a long way off, 
anyhow. I reckon I should start with a third profit. It might 
be seven hundred, or it might be more. I should like to have the 
power to work out some fancies o' mine. I care for that much 
more than for th' brass. And Ellison has no lads ; and by nature 
the business would come to thee in course o' time. Ellison's 
lassies are but bits o' things, and are not like to come by husbands 
just yet ; and when they do, maybe they'll not be in the me- 
chanical line. It will be an opening for thee, lad, if thou art 
steady. Thou'rt not great shakes, I know, in th' inventing line ; 
but many a one gets on better without having fancies for some- 
thing he does not see and never has seen. I'm right down glad 
to see that mother's cousins are such uncommon folk for sense and 
goodness. I have taken the minister to my heart like a brother, 
and she is a womanly quiet sort of a body. And I'll tell you 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 197 

frank, Paul, it will be a happy day for me if ever you can come 
and tell me that Phillis Holman is like to be my daughter. I 
think if that lass had not a penny, she would be the making of a 
man ; and she'll have yon house and lands, and you may be her 
match yet in fortune if all goes well." 

I was growing as red as fire ; I did not know what to say, and 
yet I wanted to say something ; but the idea of having a wife of 
my own at some future day, though it had often floated about in 
my own head, sounded so strange when it was thus first spoken 
about by my father. He saw my confusion, and half smiling 
said — ■ 

' • Well, lad, what dost say to the old father's plans ? Thou art 
but young, to be sure ; but when I was thy age, I would ha' given 
my right hand if I might ha' thought of the chance of wedding 
the lass I cared for " 

" My mother?" asked I, a little struck by the change of his 
tone of voice. 

" No ! not thy mother. Thy mother is a very good woman — 
none better. No ! the lass I cared for at nineteen ne'er knew how 
I loved her, and a year or two after and she was dead, and ne'er 
knew. I think she would ha' been glad to ha' known it, poor 
Molly ; but I had to leave the place where we lived for to try to 
earn my bread — and I meant to come back — but before ever I did, 
she was dead and gone : I ha' never gone there since. But if you 
fancy PhiUis Holman, and can get her to fancy you, my lad, 
it shall go different with you, Paul, to what it did with your 
father." 

I took counsel with myself very rapidly, and I came to a clear 
conclusion. 

^ " Father," said I, " if I fancied Phillis ever so much, she would 
never fancy me. I like her as much as I could like a sister ; and 
she likes me as if I were her brother — her younger brother." 

I could see my father's countenance fall a little. 

" You see she's so clever — she's more like a man than a woman 
— she knows Latin and Greek." 

"She'd forget 'em, if she'd a houseful of children," was my 
father's comment on this. 

" But she knows many a thing besides, and is wise as well as 
learned : she has been so much with her father. She would 
never think much of me, and I should like my wife to think a 
deal of her husband." 



198 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

"It is not just book-learning or the want of it as makes a wife 
think much or little of her husband," replied my father, evidently 
unwilling to give up a project which had taken deep root in his 
mind. " It's a something — I don't rightly know how to call it 
— if he's manly, and sensible, and straightforward ; and I reckon 
you're that, my boy." 

" I don't think I should like to have a wife taller than I am, 
father," said I, smihng ; he smiled too, but not heartily. 

" Well," said he, after a pause. " It's but a few days I've been 
thinking of it, but I'd got as fond of my notion as if it had been a 
new engine as I'd been planning out. Here's our Paul, thinks I 
to myself, a good sensible breed o' lad, as has never vexed or 
troubled his mother or me ; with a good business opening out 
before him, age nineteen, not so bad-looking, though perhaps not 
to call handsome, and here's his cousin, not too near a cousin, 
but just nice, as one may say ; aged seventeen, good and true, 
and well brought up to work with her hands as well as her head ; 
a scholar — but that can't be helped, and is more her misfortune 
than her fault, seeing she is the only child of a scholar — and as 
I said afore, once she's a wife and a mother she'll forget it all, 
I'll be bound — with a good fortune in land and house when it 
shall please the Lord to take her parents to himself ; with eyes 
like poor Molly's for beauty, a colour that comes and goes on a 
milk-white skin, and as pretty a mouth" 

"Why, Mr. Manning, what fair lady are you describing?" 
asked Mr. Holdsworth, who had come quickly and suddenly 
upon our tite-d-tdte , and had caught my father's last words as he 
entered the room. 

Both my father and I felt rather abashed ; it was such an odd 
subject for us to be talking about ; but my father, like a straight- 
forward, simple man as he was, spoke out the truth. 

"I've been telling Paul of Ellison's offer, and saying how 
good an opening it made for him " 

"I wish I'd as good," said Mr. Holdsw^orth, " But has the 
business a ' pretty mouth ' ? " 

" You're always so full of your joking, Mr. Holdsworth," said 
my father. " I was going to say that if he and his cousin Phillis 
Holman liked to make it up between them, I would put no spoke 
in the wheel." 

"Phillis Holman 1" said Mr. Holdsworth. "Is she the 
daughter of the minister-farmer out at Heathbridge. Have I 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 199 

been helping on the course of true love by letting you go there 
so often? I knew nothing of it." 

"There is nothing to know," said I, more annoyed than I 
chose to show. " There is no more true love in the case than 
may be between the first brother and sister you may choose to 
meet. I have been telling father she would never think of me ; 
she's a great deal taller and cleverer ; and I'd rather be taller 
and more learned than my wife when I have one." 

"And it is she, then, that has the pretty mouth your father 
spoke about? I should think that would be an antidote to the 
cleverness and learning. But I ought to apologise for break- 
ing in upon your last night ; I came upon business to your 
father." 

And then he and my father began to talk about many things 
that had no interest for me just then, and I began to go over 
again my conversation with my father. The more I thought 
about it, the more I felt that I had spoken truly about my 
feelings towards Phillis Holman. I loved her dearly as a sister, 
but I could never fancy her as my wife. Still less could I think 
of her ever — yes, condescending, that is the word — condescending 
to marry me. I was roused from a reverie on what I should like 
my possible wife to be, by hearing my father's warm praise of the 
minister, as a most unusual character ; how they had got back 
from the diameter of driving-wheels to the subject of the Holmans 
I could never tell ; but I saw that my father's weighty praises 
were exciting some curiosity in Mr. Holdsworth's mind ; indeed, 
he said, almost in a voice of reproach — 

"Why, Paul, you never told me what kind of a fellow this 
minister-cousin of yours was ? " 

" I don't know that I found out, sir," said I. "But if I had, 
I don't think you'd have listened to me, as you have done to my 
father." 

" No ! most likely not, old fellow," replied Mr. Holdsworth, 
laughing. And again and afresh I saw what a handsome plea- 
sant clear face his was ; and though this evening I had been a 
bit put out with him — through his sudden coming, and his having 
heard my father's open-hearted confidence — my hero resumed all 
his empire over me by his bright merry laugh. 

And if he had not resumed his old place that night, he would 
have done so the next day, when, after my father's departure, Mr. 
Holdsworth spoke about him with such just respect for his 



2CO COUSIN PHILLIS. 

character, such ungrudging admiration of his great mechanical 
genius, that I was compelled to say, almost unawares — 

" Thank you, sir, I am very much obliged to you." 

" Oh, you're not at all. I am only speaking the truth. Here's 
a Birmingham workman, self-educated, one may say — having 
never associated with stimulating minds, or had what advantages 
travel and contact with the world may be supposed to afford — • 
working out his own thoughts into steel and iron, making a scien- 
tific name for himself — a fortune, if it pleases him to work for 
money— and keeping his singleness of heart, his perfect simpli- 
city of manner ; it puts me out of patience to think of my expen- 
sive schoohng, my travels hither and thither, my heaps of scientific 
books, and I have done nothing to speak of. But it's evidently 
good blood ; there's that Mr. Holman, that cousin of yours, made 
of the same stuff." 

" But he's only cousin because he married my mother's second 
cousin," said I. 

" That knocks a pretty theory on the head, and twice over, too. 
I should like to make Holman's acquaintance." 

" I am sure they would be so glad to see you at Hope Farm," 
said I eagerly. " In fact, they've asked me to bring you several 
times : only I thought you would find it dull." 

" Not at all. I can't go yet though, even if you do get me an 

invitation ; for the Company want me to go to the 

Valley, and look over the ground a bit for them, to see if it 

would do for a branch line ; it's a job which may take me away 
for some time ; but I shall be backwards and forwards, and you're 
quite up to doing what is needed in my absence ; the only work 
that may be beyond you is keeping old Jevons from drinking." 

He went on giving me directions about the management of the 
men employed on the line, and no more was said then, or for 
several months, about his going to Hope Farm. He went off into 

Valley, a dark overshadowed dale, where the sun seemed to 

set behind the hills before four o'clock on midsummer afternoon. 

Perhaps it was this that brought on the attack of low fever 
which he had soon after the beginning of the new year ; he was 
very ill for many weeks, almost many months ; a married sister 
— his only relation, I think— came down from London to nurse 
him, and I went over to him when I could, to see him, and give 
him "masculine news," as he called it ; reports of the progress 
of the line, which, I am glad to say, I was able to carry on in 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 201 

his absence, in the slow gradual way which suited the company 
best, while trade was in a languid state, and money dear in the 
market. Of course, with this occupation for my scanty leisure, 
I did not often go over to Hope Farm. Whenever I did go, I 
met with a thorough welcome ; and many inquiries were made 
as to Holdsworth's illness, and the progress of his recovery. 

At length, in June I think it was, he was sufficiently recovered 
to come back to his lodgings at Eltham, and resume part at least 
of his work. His sister, Mrs. Robinson, had been obliged to leave 
him some weeks before, owing to some epidemic amongst her own 
children. As long as I had seen Mr. Holdsworth in the rooms at 
the little inn at Hensleydale, where I had been accustomed to 
look upon him as an invalid, I had not been aware of the visible 
shake his fever had given to his health. But, once back in the 
old lodgings, where I had always seen him so buoyant, eloquent, 
decided, and vigorous in former days, my spirits sank at the 
change in one whom I had always regarded with a strong feeling 
of admiring affection. He sank into silence and despondency after 
the least exertion ; he seemed as if he could not make up his 
mind to any action, or else that, when it was made up, he lacked 
strength to carry out his purpose. Of course, it was but the 
natural state of slow convalescence, after so sharp an illness ; but, 
at the time, I did not know this, and perhaps I represented his 
state as more serious than it was to my kind relations at Hope 
Farm ; who, in their grave, simple, eager way, immediately 
thought of the only help they could give. 

"Bring him out here,'' said the minister. " Our air here is 
good to a proverb ; the June days are fine ; he may loiter away 
his time in the hay-field, and the sweet smells will be a balm in 
themselves — better than physic." 

"And," said cousin Holman, scarcely waiting for her husband 
to finish his sentence, " tell him there is new milk and fresh eggs 
to be had for the asking ; it's lucky Daisy has just calved, for her 
milk is always as good as other cows' cream ; and there is the 
plaid room with the morning sun all streaming in." 

PhiUis said nothing, but looked as much interested in the pro- 
ject as any one. I took it up myself. I wanted them to see him ; 
him to know them. I proposed it to him when I got home. He 
was too languid, after the day's fatigue, to be willing to make the 
little exertion of going amongst strangers ; and disappointed me 
by almost declining to accept the invitation I brought. The next 

G 2 



202 COUSIN PHTLLIS. 

morning it was different ; he apologised for his ungraciousness 
of the night before ; and told me that he would get all things in 
train, so as to be ready to go out with me to Hope Farm on the 
following Saturday. 

" For you must go with me, Manning," said he ; "I used to be 
as impudent a fellow as need be, and rather liked going amongst 
strangers and making my way ; but since my illness I am almost 
like a girl, and turn hot and cold with shyness, as they do, I 
fancy." 

So it was fixed. We were to go out to Hope Farm on Satur- 
day afternoon ; and it was also understood that if the air and the 
life suited Mr. Holdsworth, he was to remain there for a week or 
ten days, doing what work he could at that end of the line, while 
I took his place at Eltham to the best of my ability. I grew a 
little nervous, as the time drew near, and wondered how the 
brilliant Holdsworth would agree with the quiet quaint family of 
the minister ; how they would like him and many of his half- 
foreign ways. I tried to prepare him, by telling him from time 
to time little things about the goings-on at Hope Farm. 

" Manning," said he, " I see you don't think I am half good 
enough for your friends. Out with it, man." 

" No," I replied boldly. " I think you are good ; but I don't 
know if you are quite of their kind of goodness." 

"And you've found out already that there is greater chance 
of disagreement between two 'kinds of goodness,' each having 
its own idea of right, than between a given goodness and a 
moderate degree of naughtiness — which last often arises from 
an indifference to right?" 

"I don't know. I think you're talking metaphysics, and I 
am sure that is bad for you." 

" ' When a man talks to you in a way that you don't under- 
stand about a thing which he does not understand, them's 
metaphysics.' You remember the clown's definition, don't 
you, Manning?" 

" No, I don't," said T. " But what I do understand is, that 
you must go to bed ; and tell me at what time we must start 
to-morrow, that I may go to Hep worth, and get those letters 
written we were talking about this morning." 

"Wait till to-morrow, and let us see what the day is like, ' 
he answered, with such languid indecision as showed me he 
was over-fatigued. So I went my way. 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 203 

The morrow was blue and sunny, and beautiful ; the very 
perfection of an early summer's day. Mr. Holdsworth was all 
impatience to be off into the country ; morning had brought 
back his freshness and strength, and consequent eagerness 
to be doing. I was afraid we were going to my cousin's farm 
rather too early, before they would expect us ; but what could 
I do with such a restless vehement man as Holdsworth was 
that morning? We came down upon the Hope Farm before 
the dew was off the grass on the shady side of the lane ; the 
great house-dog was loose, basking in the sun, near the closed 
side door. I was surprised at this door being shut, for all 
summer long it was open from morning to night; but it w.ns 
only on latch. I opened it. Rover watching me with half- 
suspicious, half-trustful eyes. The room was empty. 

" I don't know where they can be," said I. " But come in 
and sit down while I go and look for them. You must be 
tired." 

"Not I. This sweet balmy air is hke a thousand tonics. 
Besides, this room is hot, and smells of those pungent wood- 
ashes. What are we to do ? " 

" Go round to the kitchen. Betty will tell us where they 
are." 

So we went round into the farmyard, Rover accompanying 
us out of a grave sense of duty. Betty was washing out her 
milk-pans in the cold bubbling spring-water that constantly 
trickled in and out of a stone trough. In such weather as 
this most of her kitchen-work was done out of doors. 

"*Eh, dear!" said she, "the minister and missus is away at 
Hornby ! They ne'er thought of your coming so betimes ! 
The missus had some errands to do, and she thought as she'd 
walk with the minister and be back by dinner-time." 

" Did not they expect us to dinner? " said I. 

"Well, they did, and they did not, as I may say. Missus 
said to me the cold lamb would do well enough if you did not 
come ; and if you did I was to put on a chicken and some 
bacon to boil ; and I'll go do it now, for it is hard to boil 
bacon enough." 

"And is Phillis gone, too?" Mr. Holdsworth was making 
friends with Rover. 

' ' No ! She's just somewhere about. I reckon you'll find 
her in the kitchen-garden, getting peas." 



204 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

" Let us go there," said Holdsworth, suddenly leaving off his 
play with the dog. 

So I led the way into the kitchen-garden. It was in the first 
promise of a summer profuse in vegetables and fruits. Perhaps 
it was not so. much cared for as other parts of the property ; 
but it was more attended to than most kitchen-gardens be- 
longing to farm-houses. There were borders of flowers along 
each side of the gravel-walks ; and there was an old sheltering 
wall on the north side covered with tolerably choice fruit-trees ,- 
there was a slope down to the fish-pond at the end, where 
there were great strawberry-beds ; and raspberry-bushes and 
rose-bushes grew wherever there was a space ; it seemed a 
chance which had been planted. Long rows of peas stretched 
at right angles from the main walk, and I saw Phillis stooping 
down among them, before she saw us. As soon as she heard 
our cranching steps on the gravel, she stood up, and, shading 
her eyes from the sun, recognised us. She was quite still 
for a moment, and then came slowly towards us, blushing a 
little from evident shyness. I had never seen Phillis shy 
before. 

"This is Mr. Holdsworth, Phillis," said I, as soon as I had 
shaken hands with her. She glanced up at him, and then 
looked down, more flushed than ever at his grand formality 
of taking his hat off and bowing ; such manners had never 
been seen at Hope Farm before. 

' ' Father and mother are out. They will be so sorry ; you 
did not write, Paul, as you said you would." 

" It was my fault," said Holdsworth, understanding what 
she meant as well as if she had put it more fully into words. 
" I have not yet given up all the privileges of an invalid ; one 
of which is indecision. Last night, when your cousin asked 
me at what time we were to start, I really could not make 
up my mind.'"* 

Phillis seemed as if she could not make up her mind as to 
what to do with us. I tried to help her — 

" Have you finished getting peas?" taking hold of the half- 
filled basket she was unconsciously holding in her hand; "or 
may we stay and help you?" 

" If you would. But perhaps it will tire you, sir ? " added she, 
speaking now to Holdsworth. 

"Not a bit," said he. " It will carry me back twenty years 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 205 

In my life, when I used to gather peas in my grandfather's 
garden. I suppose I may eat a few as I go along? " 

" Certainly, sir. But if you went to the strawberry-beds you 
would find some strawberries ripe, and Paul can show you where 
they are." 

" I am afraid you distrust me. I can assure you I know the 
exact fulness at which peas should be gathered. I take great 
care not to pluck them when they are unripe. I will not be 
turned off, as unfit for my work." 

This was a style of half-joking talk that Phillis was not accus- 
tomed to. She looked for a moment as if she would have liked 
to defend herself from the playful charge of distrust made 
against her, but she ended by not saying a word. We all 
plucked our peas in busy silence for the next five minutes. 
Then Holdsworth lifted himself up from between the rows, 
and said, a little wearily — 

"I am afraid I must strike work. I am not as strong as I 
fancied myself." 

Phillis was full of penitence immediately. He did, indeed, look 
pale ; and she blamed herself for having allowed him to help her. 

" It was very thoughtless of me. I did not know — I thought, 
perhaps, you really liked it, I ought to have offered you some- 
thing to eat, sir ! Oh, Paul, we have gathered quite enough ; 
how stupid I was to forget that Mr. Holdsworth had been ill ! " 
And in a blushing hurry she led the way towards the house. 
We went in, and she moved a heavy cushioned chair forwards, 
into which Holdsworth was only too glad to sink. Then with 
deft and quiet speed she brought in a little tray, wine, water, 
cake, home-made bread, and newly-churned butter. She stood 
by in some anxiety till, after bite and sup, the colour returned 
to Mr. Holdsworth's face, and he would fain have made us some 
laughing apologies for the fright he had given us. But then 
Phillis drew back from her innocent show of care and interest, 
and relapsed into the cold shyness habitual to her when she was 
iirst thrown into the company of strangers. She brought out the 
last week's county paper (which Mr. Holdsworth had read five 
days ago), and then quietly withdrew ; and then he subsided into 
languor, leaning back and shutting his eyes as if he would go to 
sleep. I stole into the kitchen after Phillis ; but she had made 
the round of the corner of the house outside, and I found her 
siltjng on the horse-mount, with her basket of peas, and a basin 



206 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

into which she was sbeUing them. Rover lay at her feet, snap- 
ping now and then at the flies. I went to her, and tried to help 
her ; but somehow the sweet crisp young peas found their way 
more frequently into my mouth than into the basket, while we 
talked together in a low tone, fearful of being overheard through 
the open casements of the house-place in which Holdsworth was 
resting. 

" Don't you think him handsome?" asked I. 

"Perhaps — yes — I have hardly looked at him," she replied, 
** But is not he very like a foreigner?" 

" Yes, he cuts his hair foreign fashion," said I. 

" I like an Englishman to look like an Englishman." 

" I don't think he thinks about it. He says he began that way 
when he was in Italy, because everybody wore it so, and it is 
natural to keep it on in England." 

" Not if he began it in Italy because everybody there wore it 
so. Everybody here wears it differently." 

I was a little offended with Phillis's logical fault-finding with 
my friend ; and I determined to change the subject. 

"When is your mother coming home?" 

" I should think she might come any time now ; but she had 
to go and see Mrs. Morton, who was ill, and she might be kept, 
and not be home till dinner. Don't you think you ought to go 
and see how Mr. Holdsworth is going on, Paul ? He may be 
faint again." 

I went at her bidding ; but there was no need for it. Mr. 
Holdsworth was up, standing by the window, his hands in his 
pockets ; he had evidently been watching us. He turned away 
as I entered. 

"So that is the girl I found your good father planning for 
your wife, Paul, that evening when I interrupted you ! Are you of 
the same coy mind still? It did not look hke it a minute ago." 

" Phillis and I understand each other," I replied sturdily. 
" We are like brother and sister. She would not have me as a 
husband if there was not another man in the world ; and it 
would take a deal to make me think of her — as my father 
wishes" (somehow I did not like to say "as a wife"), " but we 
love each other dearly." 

"Well, I am rather surprised at it — not at your loving each 
other in a brother-and-sister kind of way — but at your finding it 
so impossible to fall in love with such a beautiful woman." 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 207 

Woman ! beautiful woman ! I had thought of Philhs as a 
comely but awkward girl ; and I could not banish the pinafore 
from my mind's eye when I tried to picture her to myself. Now 
I turned, as Mr. Holdsworth had done, to look at her again out 
of the window : she had just finished her task, and was standing 
up, her back to us, holding the basket, and the basin in it, high 
in air, out of Rover's reach, who was giving vent to his delight 
at the probability of a change of place by glad leaps and barks, 
and snatches at what he imagined to be a withheld prize. At 
length she grew tired of their mutual play, and with a feint of 
striking him, and a "Down, Rover! do hush!" she looked 
towards the window where we were standing, as if to reassure 
herself that no one had been disturbed by the noise, and seeing 
us, she coloured all over, and hurried away, with Rover still 
curving in sinuous lines about her as she walked. 

" I should like to have sketched her," said Mr. Holdsworth, 
as he turned away. He went back to his chair, and rested in 
silence for a minute or two. Then he was up again. 

•' I would give a good deal for a book," said he. " It would 
keep me quiet." He began to look round ; there were a few 
volumes at one end of the shovel-board. 

"Fifth volume of Matthew Henry's Commentary," said he, 
reading their titles aloud. " Housewife's Complete Manual ; 
Berridge on Prayer ; L'Inferno — Dante!" in great surprise, 
"Why, who reads this?" 

"I told you Phillis read it. Don't you remember? She 
knows Latin and Greek, too." 

"To be sure ! I remember ! But somehow I never put two 
and two together. That quiet girl, full of household work, is the- 
wonderful scholar, then, that put you to rout with her questions 
when you first began to come here. To be sure, ' Cousin Phillis ! ' 
What's here ; a paper with the hard obsolete words written out. 
I wonder what sort of a dictionary she has got. Baretti won't tell 
her all these words. Stay ! I have got a pencil here. I'll write 
down the most accepted meanings, and save her a little trouble." 

So he took her book and the paper back to the little round 
table, and employed himself in writing explanations and defini- 
tions of the words which had troubled her. I was not sure if 
he was not taking a liberty ; it did not quite please me, and yet 
I did not know why. He had only just done, and replaced the 
paper in the book, and put the latter back in its place, when I 



2o8 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

heard the sound of wheels stopping in the lane, and looking out, 
I saw cousin Holman getting out of a neighbour's gig, making 
her little curtsey of acknowledgment, and then coming towards 
the house. I went out to meet her. 

" Oh, Paul ! " said she, " I am so sorry I was kept ; and then 
Thomas Dobson said if I would wait a quarter of an hour he 

would But Where's your friend Mr. Holdsworth? I hope 

he is come?" 

Just then he came out, and with his pleasant cordial manner 
took her hand, and thanked her for asking him to come out here 
to get strong. 

' ' I'm sure I am very glad to see you, sir. It was the minister's 
thought. I took it into my head you would be dull in our quiet 
house, for Paul says you've been such a great traveller ; but the 
minister said that dulness would perhaps suit you while you 
were but ailing, and that I was to ask Paul to be here as much 
as he could. I hope you'll find yourself happy with us, I'm 
sure, sir. Has Phillis given you something to eat and drink, I 
wonder? there's a deal in eating a little often, if one has to get 
strong after an illness." And then she began to question him 
as to the details of his indisposition in her simple motherly 
way. He seemed at once to understand her, and to enter into 
friendly relations with her. It was not quite the same in the 
evening, when the minister came home. Men have always 
a little natural antipathy to get over when they first meet as 
strangers. But in this case each was disposed to make an effort 
to like the other ; only each was to each a specimen of an un- 
known class. I had to leave the Hope Farm on Sunday afternoon , 
as I had Mr. Holdsworth's work as well as my own to look to in 
Eltham ; and I was not at all sure how things would go on during 
the week that Holdsworth was to remain on his visit ; I had been 
once or twice in hot water already at the near clash of opinions 
between the minister and my much-vaunted friend. On the 
Wednesday I received a short note from Holdsworth ; he was 
going to stay on, and return with me on the following Sunday, 
and he wanted me to send him a certain list of books, his theodo- 
lite, and other surveying instruments, all of which could easily be 
conveyed down the line to Heathbridge. I went to his lodgings 
and picked out the books. Itahan, Latin, trigonometry ; a pretty 
considerable parcel they made, besides the implements. I began 
to be curious as to the general progress of affairs at Hope Farm, 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 209 

but I could not go over till the Saturday. At Heathbridge I 
found Holdsworth, come to meet me. He was looking quite 
a different man to what I had left him ; embrowned, sparkles 
in his eyes, so languid before. I told him how much stronger 
he looked. 

"Yes ! " said he. " I am fidging fain to be at work again. 
Last week I dreaded the thoughts of my employment ; now I 
am full of desire to begin. This week in the country has done 
wonders for me." 

" You have enjoyed yourself, then?" 

* ' Oh ! it has been perfect in its way. Such a thorough 
country life ! and yet removed from the dulness which I always 
used to fancy accompanied country life, by the extraordinary 
intelligence of the minister. I have fallen into calling him ' the 
minister,' like every one else." 

" You get on with him, then ? " said I. "I was a little afraid." 

" I was on the verge of displeasing him once or twice, I fear, 
with random assertions and exaggerated expressions, such as 
one always uses with other people, and thinks nothing of; but 
I tried to check myself when I saw how it shocked ihe good 
man ; and really it is very wholesome exercise, this trying to 
make one's words represent one's thoughts, instead of merely 
looking to their effect on others." 

•* Then you are quite friends now?" I asked. 

" Yes, thoroughly ; at any rate as far as I go. I never met 
a man with such a desire for knowledge. In information, as far 
as it can be gained from books, he far exceeds me on most 

subjects ; but then I have travelled and seen Were not you 

surprised at the list of things I sent for?" 

" Yes ; I thought it did not promise much rest." 

" Oh, some of the books were for the minister, and some for 
his daughter. (I call her Phillis to myself, but I use euphuisms 
in speaking about her to others. I don't like to seem famihar, 
and yet Miss Holman is a terra I have never heard used. ) ' 

" I thought the Italian books were for her." 

"Yes ! Fancy her trying at Dante for her first book in Italian ! 
I had a capital novel by Manzoni, '/ Promessi Sposi,' just the 
thing for a beginner ! and if she must still puzzle out Dante, my 
dictionary is far better than hers," 

"Then she found out you had written those definitions on 
her list of words ? " 



2IO COUSIN PHILLIS. 

" Oh ! yes " — with a smile of amusement and pleasure. He 
was going to tell me what had taken place, but checked himself. 

' ' But I don't think the minister will like your having given 
her a novel to read ? " 

" Pooh ! What can be more harmless? Why make a bug- 
bear of a word ! It is as pretty and innocent a tale as can be 
met with. You don't suppose they take Virgil for gospel?" 

By this time we were at the farm. I think Phillis gave me a 
warmer welcome than usual, and cousin Holman was kindness 
itself. Yet somehow I felt as if I had lost my place, and that 
Holdsworth had taken it. He knew all the ways of the house ; 
he was full of little filial attentions to cousin Holman ; he treated 
Phillis with the affectionate condescension of an elder brother ; 
not a bit more ; not in any way different. He questioned me 
about the progress of affairs in Eltham with eager interest. 

"Ah ! " said cousin Holman, "you'll be spending a different 
kind of time next week to what you have done this ! I can 
see how busy you'll make yourself ! But if you don't take care 
you'll be ill again, and have to come back to our quiet ways of 
going on," 

' ' Do you suppose I shall need to be ill to wish to come back 
here?" he answered warmly. "I am only afraid you have 
treated me so kindly that I shall always be turning up on your 
hands." 

" That's right," she replied. " Only don't go and make your- 
self ill by over-work. I hope you'll go on with a cup of new 
milk every morning, for I am sure that is the best medicine ; and 
put a teaspoonful of rum in it if you like ; many a one speaks 
highly of that, only we had no rum in the house." 

I brought with me an atmosphere of active life which I think 
he had begun to miss ; and it was natural that he should seek 
my company, after his week of retirement. Once I saw Phillis 
looking at us as we talked together with a kind of wistful 
curiosity ; but as soon as she caught my eye, she turned away, 
blushing deeply. 

That evening I had a little talk with the minister. I strolled 
along the Hornby road to meet him ; for Holdsworth was giving 
Phillis an Italian lesson, and cousin Holman had fallen asleep 
over her work. 

Somehow, and not unwillingly on my part, our talk fell on the 
friend whom I had introduced to the Hope Farm. 



COUSIN PHI-LLIS. 211 

" Yes ! I like him ! " said the minister, weighing his words a 
little as he spoke. " I like him. I hope I am justified in doing 
it, but he takes hold of me, as it were ; and I have almost been 
afraid lest he carries me away, in spite of my judgment." 

"He is a good fellow; indeed he is," said I. "My father 
thinks well of him ; and I have seen a deal of him. I would 
not have had him come here if I did not know that you would 
approve of him. " 

"Yes" (once more hesitating), " I like him, and I think he 
is an upright man ; there is a want of seriousness in his talk at 
times, but, at the same time, it is wonderful to listen to him ! 
He makes Horace and Virgil living, instead of dead, by the 
stories he tells me of his sojourn in the very countries where they 
lived, and where to this day, he says But it is like dram- 
drinking. I listen to him till I forget my duties, and am carried 
off my feet. Last Sabbath evening he led us away into talk on 
profane subjects ill befitting the day." 

By this time we were at the house, and our conversation 
stopped. But before the day was out, 1 saw the unconscious 
hold that my friend had got over all the family. And no wonder: 
he had seen so much and done so much as compared to them, 
and he told about it all so easily and naturally, and yet as I 
never heard any one else do ; and his ready pencil was out in an 
instant to draw on scraps of paper all sorts of illustrations — 
modes of drawing up water in Northern Italy, wine-carts, 
buffaloes, stone-pines, I know not what. After we had all 
looked at these drawings, Phillis gathered them together, and 
took them. 

It is many years since I have seen thee, Edward Holdsworth, 
but thou wast a delightful fellow ! Ay, and a good one too ; 
though much sorrow was caused by thee ! 



PART III. 

Just after this I went home for a week's holiday. Everything 
was prospering there ; my father's new partnership gave evident 
satisfaction to both parties. There was no display of increased 
wealth in our modest household ; but my mother had a few 
extra comforts provided for her by her husband. I made 



212 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

acquaintance with Mr. and Mrs. Ellison, and first saw pretty 
Margaret Ellison, who is now my wife. When I returned to 
Eltham, I found that a step was decided upon which had been 
in contemplation for some time ; that Holdsworth and I should 
remove our quarters to Hornby ; our daily presence, and as 
much of our time as possible, being required for the completion 
-of the line at that end. 

Of course this led to greater facility of intercourse with the 
Hope Farm people. We could easily walk out there after our 
day's work was done, and spend a balmy evening hour or two, 
and yet return before the summer's twilight had quite faded 
away. Many a time, indeed, we would fain have stayed longer 
— the open air, the fresh and pleasant country, made so agree- 
able a contrast to the close, hot town lodgings which I shared 
with Mr. Holdsworth ; but early hours, both at eve and morn, 
were an imperative necessity with the minister, and he made no 
scruple at turning either or both of us out of the house directly 
after evening prayer, or "exercise," as he called it. The re- 
membrance of many a happy day, and of several little scenes, 
comes back upon me as I think of that summer. They rise like 
pictures to my memory, and in this way I can date their succes- 
sion ; for I know that corn-harvest must have come after hay- 
making, apple-gathering after corn-harvest. 

The removal to Hornby took up some time, during which we 
had neither of us any leisure to go out to the Hope Farm. Mr. 
Holdsworth had been out there once during my absence at 
home. One sultry evening, when work was done, he proposed 
our walking out and paying the Holmans a visit. It so 
happened that I had omitted to write my usual weekly letter 
home in our press of business, and I wished to finish that before 
going out. Then he said that he would go, and that I could 
follow him if I liked. This I did in about an hour ; the weather 
was so oppressive, I remember, that I took off my coat as I 
walked, and hung it over my arm. All the doors and windows 
at the farm were open when I arrived there, and every tiny leaf 
on the trees was still. The silence of the place was profound ; 
at first I thought that it was entirely deserted ; but just as I 
drew near the door I heard a weak sweet voice begin to sing ; 
it was cousin Holman, all by herself in the house-place, piping 
up a hymn, as she knitted away in the clouded light. She gave 
me a kindly welcome, and poured out all the small domestic 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 215 

news of the fortnight past upon me, and, in return, I told her 
about my own people and my visit at home. 

"Where were the rest? " at length I asked. 

Betty and the men were in the field helping with the last load 
of hay, for the minister said there would be rain before the morn- 
ing. Yes, and the minister himself, and PhiUis, and Mr. Holds- 
worth, were all there helping. She thought that she herself 
could have done something ; but perhaps she was the least fit 
for haymaking of any one ; and somebody must stay at home 
and take care of the house, there were so many tramps about ; 
if I had not had something to do with the railroad she would 
have called them navvies. I asked her if she minded being left 
alone, as I should like to go and help ; and having her full and 
glad permission to leave her alone, I went off, following her 
directions : through the farmyard, past the cattle-pond, into the 
ash-field, beyond into the higher field with two holly-bushes in 
the middle. I arrived there : there was Betty with all the farm- 
ing men, and a cleared field, and a heavily laden cart ; one man 
at the top of the great pile ready to catch the fragrant hay 
which the others threw up to him with their pitchforks ; a little 
heap of cast-off clothes in a corner of the field (for the heat, even 
at seven o'clock, was insufferable), a few cans and baskets, and 
Rover lying by them panting, and keeping watch. Plenty of 
loud, hearty, cheerful talking ; but no minister, no Phillis, no 
Mr. Holdsworth. Betty saw me first, and understanding who it 
was that I was in search of, she came towards me. 

•* They're out yonder — agait wi' them things o' Measter Holds- 
worth's." 

So "out yonder " I went ; out on to a broad upland common, 
full of red sand-banks, and sweeps and hollows ; bordered by 
dark firs, purple in the coming shadows, but near at hand all 
ablaze with flowering gorse, or, as we call it in the south, furze- 
bushes, which, seen against the belt of distant trees, appeared 
brilliantly golden. On this heath, a little way from the field- 
gate, I saw the three. I counted their heads, joined together in 
an eager group over Holdsworth's theodolite. He was teaching 
the minister the practical art of surveying and taking a level. I 
was wanted to assist, and was quickly set to work to hold the 
chain. Phillis was as intent as her father ; she had hardly time 
to greet me, so desirous was she to hear some answer to her 
father's question. 



214 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

So we went on, the dark clouds still gathering, for perhaps 
five minutes after my arrival. Then came the blinding light- 
ning and the rumble and quick-following rattling peal of thunder 
right over our heads. It came sooner than I expected, sooner 
than they had looked for : the rain delayed not ; it came pouring 
down ; and what were we to do for shelter? Phillis had nothing 
on but her indoor things — no bonnet, no shawl. Quick as the 
darting lightning around us, Holdsworth took off his coat and 
wrapped it round her neck and shoulders, and, almost without a 
word, hurried us all into such poor shelter as one of the over- 
hanging sand-banks could give. There we were, cowered down, 
close together, Phillis innermost, almost too tightly packed to 
free her arms enough to divest herself of the coat, which she, in 
her turn, tried to put lightly over Holdsworth's shoulders. In 
doing so she touched his shirt. 

" Oh, how wet you are ! " she cried, in pitying dismay ; "and 
you've hardly got over your fever ! Oh, Mr. Holdsworth, I am 
so sorry ! " He turned his head a little, smiling at her. 

" If I do catch cold, it is all my fault for having deluded you 
into staying out here ! " But she only murmured again, " I am 
so sorry." 

The minister spoke now. " It is a regular downpour. Please 
God that the hay is saved ! But there is no likelihood of its 
ceasing, and I had better go home at once, and send you all 
some wraps ; umbrellas will not be safe with yonder thunder 
and lightning." 

Both Holdsworth and I offered to go instead of him ; but he 
was resolved, although perhaps it would have been wiser if 
Holdsworth, wet as he already was, had kept himself in exercise. 
As he moved off, Phillis crept out, and could see on to the storm- 
swept heath. Part of Holdsworth's apparatus still remained 
exposed to all the rain. Before we could have any warning, she 
had rushed out of the shelter and collected the various tlnngs, 
and brought them back in triumph to where we crouched. Holds- 
worth had stood up, uncertain whether to go to her assistance or 
not. She came running back, her long lovely hair floating and 
dripping, her eyes glad and bright, and her colour freshened to a 
glow of health by the exercise and the rain. 

" Now, Miss Holman, that's what I call wilful," said Holds- 
worth, as she gave them to him. " No, I won't thank you " (his 
looks were thanking her all the time). " My little bit of damp- 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 215 

ness annoyed you, because you thought I had got wet in your 
service ; so you were determined to make me as uncomfortable 
as you were yourself. It was an unchristian piece of revenge ! " 
His tone of badinage (as the French call it) would have been 
palpable enough to any one accustomed to the world ; but Phillis 
was not, and it distressed or rather bewildered her. " Unchris- 
tian " had to her a very serious meaning ; it was not a word to be 
used lightly ; and though she did not exactly understand what 
wrong it was that she was accused of doing, she was evidently 
desirous to throw off the imputation. At first her earnestness to 
disclaim unkind motives amused Holdsworth ; while his hght 
continuance of the joke perplexed her still more ; but at last he 
said something gravely, and in too low a tone for me to hear, 
which made her all at once become silent, and called out her 
blushes. After a while, the minister came back, a moving mass 
of shawls, cloaks, and umbrellas. Phillis kept very close to her 
father's side on our return to the farm. She appeared to me 
to be shrinking away from Holdsworth, while he had not the 
slightest variation in his manner from what it usually was in his 
graver moods ; kind, protecting, and thoughtful towards her. 
Of course, there was a great commotion about our wet clothes ; 
but I name the little events of that evening now because I 
wondered at the time what he had said in that low voice to 
silence Phillis so effectually, and because, in thinking of their 
intercourse by the light of future events, that evening stands out 
with some prominence. 

- 1 have said that after our removal to Hornby our communica- 
tions with the farm became almost of daily occurrence. Cousin 
Holman and I were the two who had least to do with this inti- 
macy. After Mr. Holdsworth regained his health, he too often- 
talked above her head in intellectual matters, and too often in his 
hght bantering tone for her to feel quite at her ease with him. I 
really believe that he adopted this latter tone in speaking to her 
because he did not know what to talk about to a purely motherly 
woman, whose intellect had never been cultivated, and whose 
loving heart was entirely occupied with her husband, her child, 
her household affairs, and, perhaps, a little with the concerns of 
the members of her husband's congregation, because they, in a 
way, belonged to her husband. I had noticed before that she had 
fleeting shadows of jealousy even of Phillis, when her daughter 
and her husband aooeared to have strong interests and sym-. 



2l6 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

pathies in things which were quite beyond her comprehension, 
I had noticed it in my first acquaintance with them, I say, and 
had admired the delicate tact which made the minister, on such 
occasions, bring the conversation back to such subjects as those 
on which his wife, with her practical experience of everyday life, 
was an authority ; while Phillis, devoted to her father, uncon- 
sciously followed his lead, totally unaware, in her filial reverence, 
of his motive for doing so. 

To return to Holdsworth. The minister had at more than 
one time spoken of him to me with shght distrust, principally 
occasioned by the suspicion that his careless words were not 
always those of soberness and truth. But it was more as a pro- 
test against the fascination which the younger man evidently exer- 
cised over the elder one — more as it were to strengthen himself 
against yielding to this fascination — that the minister spoke out 
to me about this failing of Holdsworth's, as it appeared to him. 
In return Holdsworth was subdued by the minister's upright- 
ness and goodness, and delighted with his clear intellect — his 
strong healthy craving after further knowledge. I never met 
two men who took more thorough pleasure and relish in each , 
other's society. To Phillis his relation continued that of an elder 
brother : he directed her studies into new paths, he patiently drew 
out the expression of many of her thoughts, and perplexities, and 
unformed theories, scarcely ever now falling into the vein of 
banter which she was so slow to understand. 

One day — harvest-time— he had been drawing on a loose piece 
of paper — sketching ears of corn, sketching carts drawn by bul- 
locks and laden with grapes — all the time talking with Phillis and 
me, cousin Holman putting in her not pertinent remarks, when 
suddenly he said to Phillis — • 

* ' Keep your head still ; I see a sketch ! I have often tried to 
draw your head from memory, and failed ; but I think I can do 
it now. If I succeed I will give it to your mother. You would 
like a portrait of your daughter as Ceres, would you not, 
ma'am?" 

" I should like a picture of her ; yes, very much, thank you, 
Mr. Holdsworth ; but if you put that straw in her hair" (he was 
holding some wheat ears above her passive head, looking at the 
effect with an artistic eye), "you'll ruffle her hair. PhiUis, my 
dear, if you're to have your picture taken, go upstairs, and brush 
your hair smooth." 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 217 

" Not on any account. I beg your pardon, but I want hair 
loosely flowing." 

He began to draw, looking intently at Phillis ; I could see this 
stare of his discomposed her — her colour came and went, her 
breath quickened with the consciousness of his regard ; at last, 
when he said, " Please look at me for a minute or two, I want to 
get in the eyes," she looked up at him, quivered, and suddenly 
got up and left the room. He did not say a word, but went on 
with some other part of the drawing ; his silence was unnatural, 
and his dark cheek blanched a little. Cousin Holman looked up 
from her work, and put her spectacles down. 

' ' What's the matter ? Where is she gone ? " 

Holdsworth never uttered a word, but went on drawing. I felt 
obhged to say something ; it was stupid enough, but stupidity 
was better than silence just then. 

" I'll go and call her," said T. So I went into the hall, and to 
the bottom of the stairs ; but just as I was going to call Phillis, 
she came down swiftly with her bonnet on, and saying, "I'm 
going to father in the five-acre," passed out by the open " rector," 
right in front of the house-place windows, and out at the litde 
white side-gate. She had been seen by her mother and Holds- 
worth as she passed ; so there was no need for explanation, only 
cousin Holman and I had a long discussion as to whether she 
could have found the room too hot, or what had occasioned her 
sudden departure. Holdsworth was very quiet during all the rest 
of that day ; nor did he resume the portrait-taking by his own 
desire, only at my cousin Holman's request the next time that he 
came ; and then he said he should not require any more formal 
sittings for only such a slight sketch as he felt himself capable of 
making. Phillis was just the same as ever the next time I saw 
her after her abrupt passing me in the hall. She never gave any 
explanation of her rush out of the room. 

So all things went on, at least as far as my observation reached 
at the time, or memory can recall now, till the great apple-gather- 
ing of the year. The nights were frosty, the mornings and even- 
ings were misty, but at mid-day all was sunny and bright, and it 
was one mid-day that both of us being on the line near Heath- 
bridge, and knowing that they were gathering apples at the farm, 
we resolved to spend the men's dinner-hour in going over there. 
We found the great clothes-baskets full of apples, scenting the 
house and stopping up the way ; and an universal air of merry 



2l8 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

contentment with this the final produce of the year. The yellow 
leaves hung on the trees ready to flutter down at the slightest puff 
of air ; the great bushes of Michaelmas daisies in the kitchen- 
garden were making their last show of flowers. We must needs 
taste the fruit off the different trees, and pass our judgment as to 
their flavour ; and we went a.way with our pockets stuffed with 
those that we liked best. As we had passed to the orchard, 
Holdsworth had admired and spoken about some flower which he 
saw ; it so happened he had never seen this old-fashioned kind 
since the days of his boyhood. I do not know whether he had 
thought anything more about this chance speech of his, but I 
know I had not — when Phillis, who had been missing just at the 
last moment of our hurried visit, re-appeared with a little nosegay 
of this same flower, which she was tying up with a blade of grass. 
She offered it to Holdsworth as he stood with her father on the 
point of departure. I saw their faces. I saw for the first time an 
unmistakable look of love in his black eyes ; it was more than 
gratitude for the little attention ; it was tender and beseeching — . 
passionate. She shrank from it in confusion, her glance fell on 
me ; and, partly to hide her emotion, partly out of real kindness at 
what might appear ungracious neglect of an older friend, she flew 
off to gather me a few late-blooming China roses. But it was the 
first time she had ever done anything of the kind for me. 

We had to walk fast to be back on the line before the men's re- 
turn, so we spoke but little to each other, and of course the after- 
noon was too much occupied for us to have any talk. In the 
evening we went back to our joint lodgings in Hornby. There, on 
the table, lay a letter for Holdsworth, which had been forwarded 
to him from Eltham. As our tea was ready, and I had had 
nothing to eat since morning, I fell to directly, without paying 
much attention to my companion as he opened and read his letter. 
He was very silent for a few minutes ; at length he said — 

" Old fellow ! I'm going to leave you?" 

" Leave me !" said I. "How? When?" 

" This letter ought to have come to hand sooner. It is from 
Greathed the engineer " (Greathed was w^ell known in those days ; 
he is dead now, and his name half- forgotten) ; " he wants to see 
me about some business ; in fact, I may as well tell you, Paul, 
this letter contains a very advantageous proposal for me to go out 
to Canada, and superintend the making of a Hne there. 

I was in utter dismay. 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 219 

"But what will our company say to that? " 

' ' Oh, Greathed has the superintendence of this line, you 
know ; and he is going to be engineer-in-chief to this Canadian 
line : many of the shareholders in this company are going in for 
the other, so I fancy they will make no difficulty in following 
Greathed's lead. He says he has a young man ready to put in 
my place." 

" I hate him," said I. 

"Thank you," said Holdsworth, laughing. 

" But you must not," he resumed ; "for this is a very good 
thing for me ; and, of course, if no one can be found to take my 
inferior work, I can't be spared to take the superior. I only wish 
I had received this letter a day sooner. Every hour is of conse- 
quence, for Greathed says they are threatening a rival line. Do 
you know, Paul, I almost fancy I must go up to-night ? I can 
take an engine back to Eltham, and catch the night train. I 
should not like Greathed to think me lukewarm." 

"But you'll come back?" I asked, distressed at the thouglit 
of this sudden parting. 

"Oh, yes! At least I hope so. They may want me to go 
out by the next steamer, that will be on Saturday." He began 
to eat and drink standing, but I think he was quite unconscious 
of the nature of either his food or his drink. 

" J. will go to-night. Activity and readiness go a long way in 
our profession. Remember that, my boy ! I hope I shall come 
back, but if I don't, be sure and recollect all the words of 
wisdom that have fallen from my lips. Now, where's the port- 
manteau ? If I can gain half-an-hour for a gathering up of my 
things in Eltham, so much the better. I'm clear of debt any- 
how ; and what I owe for my lodgings you can pay for me out 
of my quarter's salary, due November 4th." 

"Then you don't think you will come back?" I said de- 
spondingly. 

"I will come back some time, never fear," said he kindly. 
" I may be back in a couple of days, having been found incom- 
petent for the Canadian work ; or I may not be wanted to go 
out so soon as I now anticipate. Anyhow, you don't suppose I 
am going to forget you, Paul — this work out there ought not to 
take me above two years, and, perhaps, after that, we may be 
employed together again." 

Perhaps ! I had very little hope. The same kind of happy 



220 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

days never return. However, I did all I could in helping 
him : clothes, papers, books, instruments ; how we pushed and 
struggled — how I stuffed. All was done in a much shorter time 
than we had calculated upon, when I had run down to the sheds 
to Older the engine. I was going to drive him to Eltham. We 
sat ready for a summons. Holdsworth took up the little nose- 
gay he had brought away from the Hope Farm, and had laid 
on the mantelpiece on first coming into the room. He smelt at 
it, and caressed it with his lips. 

"What grieves me is that I did not know — that I have not 
said good-bye to — to them." 

He spoke in a grave tone, the shadow of the coming separa- 
tion falling upon him at last. 

"I will tell them," said I. "I am sure they will be very 
sorry," Then we were silent. 

" I never liked any family so much." 

" I knew you would like them." 

" How one's thoughts change, — this morning I was full of a 
hope, Paul." He paused, and then he said — 

" You put that sketch in carefully?" 

" That outline of a head ? " asked I. But I knew he meant an 
abortive sketch of Phillis, which had not been successful enough 
for him to complete it with shading or colouring. 

"Yes. What a sweet innocent face it is! and yet so — Oh, 
dear ! " 

He sighed and got up, his hands in his pockets, to walk up and 
down the room in evident disturbance of mind. He suddenly 
stopped opposite to me. 

" You'll tell them how it all was. Be sure and tell the good 
minister that I was so sorry not to wish him good-bye, and to 
thank him and his wife for all their kindness. As for Phillis, — 
please God in two years Til be back and tell her myself all in 
my heart." 

"You love Phillis, then?" said I. 

" Love her ! — Yes, that I do. Who could help it, seeing her 
as I have done? Her character as unusual and rare as her 
beauty ! God bless her ! God keep her in her high tranquillity, 
her pure innocence. — Two years ! It is a long time. But she 
lives in such seclusion, almost like the sleeping beauty, Paul," — 
(he was smiling now, though a minute before I had thought him 
on the verge of tears) — "but I shall come back like a prince 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 221 

from Canada, and waken her to my love. I can't help hoping 
that it won't be difficult, eh, Paul?" 

This touch of coxcombry displeased me a little, and I made 
no answer. He went on, half apologetically — 

" You see, the salary they offer me is large ; and besides that, 
this experience will give me a name which will entitle me to 
expect a still larger in any future undertaking." 

" That won't influence Phillis." 

" No ! but it will make me more ehgible in the eyes of her 
father and mother." 

I made no answer. 

"You give me your best wishes, Paul," said he, almost 
pleading. " You would like me for a cousin ? " 

I heard the scream and whistle of the engine ready down at 
the sheds. 

"Ay, that I should," I rephed, suddenly softened towards my 
friend now that he was going away, " I wish you were to be 
married to-morrow, and I were to be best man." 

' ' Thank you, lad. Now for this cursed portmanteau (how 
the minister would be shocked) ; but it is heavy ! " and off we 
sped into the darkness. 

He only just caught the night train at Eltham, and I slept, 
desolately enough, at my old lodgings at Miss Dawson's, for 
that ,night. Of course the next few days I was busier than ever, 
doing both his work and my own. Then came a letter from 
him, very short and affectionate. He was going out in the 
Saturday steamer, as he had more than half expected ; and by 
the following Monday the man who was to succeed him would be 
down at Eltham. There was a P.S., with only these words : — 

" My nosegay goes with me to Canada, but I do not need it 
to remind me of Hope Farm." 

Saturday came ; but it was very late before I could go out to 
the farm. It was a frosty night, the stars shone clear above me, 
and the road was crisping beneath my feet. They must have 
heard my footsteps before I got up to the house. They were 
sitting at their usual employments in the house-place when I 
went in. Phillis's eyes went beyond me in their look of welcome, 
and then fell in quiet disappointment on her work. 

"And Where's Mr. Holdsworth?" asked cousin Holman, in 
a minute or two. " I hope his cold is not worse, — I did not hke 
his short cough." 



222 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

I laughed awkwardly ; for I felt that I was the bearer of 
unpleasant news. 

" His cold had need be better — for he's gone — gone away to 
Canada ! " 

I purposely looked away from Phillis, as I thus abruptly told 
my news. 

" To Canada ! " said the minister. 

" Gone away ! " said his wife. 

But no word from Phillis. 

" Yes ! " said I. " He found a letter at Hornby when we got 
home the other night — when we got home from here ; he ought 
to have got it sooner; he was ordered to go up to London 
directly, and to see some people about a new line in Canada, 
and he's gone to lay it down ; he has sailed to-day. He was 
sadly grieved not to have time to come out and wish you all 
good-bye ; but he started for London within two hours after he 
got that letter. He bade me thank you most gratefully for all 
your kindnesses ; he was very sorry not to come here once 
again." 

Phillis got up and left the room with noiseless steps. 

" I am very sorry," said the minister. 

' ' I am sure so am I ! " said cousin Holman. ' ' I was real fond 
of that lad ever since I nursed him last June after that bad fever." 

The minister went on asking me questions respecting Holds- 
worth's future plans ; and brought out a large old-fashioned 
atlas, that he might find out the exact places between which 
the new railroad was to run. Then supper was ready ; it was 
always on the table as soon as the clock on the stairs struck eight, 
and down came Phillis — her face white and set, her dry eyes 
looking defiance at me, for I am afraid I hurt her maidenly 
pride by my glance of sympathetic interest as she entered the 
room. Never a word did she say — never a question did she 
ask about the absent friend, yet she forced herself to talk. 

And so it was all the next day. She was as pale as could be, 
like one who has received some shock ; but she would not let 
me talk to her, and she tried hard to behave as usual. Two 
or three times I repeated, in public, the various affectionate 
messages to the family with which I was charged by Holds- 
worth ; but she took no more notice of them than if my words 
had been empty air. And in this mood I left her on the Sabbath 
evening. 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 223 

My new master was not half so indulgent as my old one. 
He kept up strict discipline as to hours, so that it was some 
time before I could again go out, even to pay a call at the Hope 
Farm. 

It was a cold misty evening in November. The air, even in- 
doors, seemed full of haze ; yet there was a great log burning on 
the hearth, which ought to have made the room cheerful. Cousin 
Holman and Phillis were sitting at the little round table before 
the fire, working away in silence. The minister had his books 
out on the dresser, seemingly deep in study, by the light of his 
solitary candle ; perhaps the fear of disturbing him made the 
unusual stillness of the room. But a welcome was ready for me 
from all ; not noisy, not demonstrative — that it never was ; my 
damp wrappers were taken off, the next meal was hastened, and 
a chair placed for me on one side the fire, so that I pretty much 
commanded a view of the room. My eye caught on Phillis, 
looking so pale and weary, and with a sort of aching tone (if I 
may call it so) in her voice. She was doing all the accustomed 
things — fulfilling small household duties, but somehow differently 
— I can't tell you how, for she was just as deft and quick in her 
movements, only the light spring was gone out of them. Cousin 
Holman began to question me ; even the minister put aside his 
books, and came and stood on the opposite side of the fireplace, 
to hear what waft of intelligence I brought. I had first to tell 
them why I had not been to see them for so long — more than 
five weeks. The answer was simple enough ; business and the 
necessity of attending strictly to the orders of a new superinten- 
dent, who had not yet learned trust, much less indulgence. The 
minister nodded his approval of my conduct, and said — 

"Right, Paul! 'Servants, obey in all things your masters 
according to the flesh.' I have had my fears lest you had too 
much license under Edward Holdsworth." 

" Ah," said cousin Holman, " poor Mr. Holdsworth, he'll be 
on the salt seas by this time ! " 

"No, indeed," said I, "he's landed. I have had a letter 
from him from Halifax." 

Immediately a shower of questions fell thick upon me. When ? 
How? What was he doing? How did he like it? What sort 
of a voyage? &c. 

" Many is the time we thought of him when the wind was 
blowing so hard ; the old quince-tree is blown down, Paul, that 



2 24 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

on the right hand of the great pear-tree ; it was blown down last 
Monday week, and it was that night that I asked the minister to 
pray in an especial manner for all them that went down in ships 
upon the great deep, and he said then, that Mr. Holdsworth 
might be already landed ; but I said, even if the prayer did not 
fit him, it was sure to be fitting somebody out at sea, who would 
need the Lord's care. Both Phillis and I thought he would be 
a month on the seas." 

Phillis began to speak, but her voice did not come rightly at 
first. It was a httle higher pitched than usual, when she said — 

"We thought he would be a month if he went in a sailing- 
vessel, or perhaps longer. I suppose he went in a steamer?" 

' ' Old Obadiah Grimshaw was more than six weeks in getting 
to America," observed cousin Holman. 

" I presume he cannot as yet tell how he likes his new work ? " 
asked the minister. 

' ' No ! he is but just landed ; it is but one page long. I'll read 
it to you, shall I ? — ■ 

" ' Dear Paul, — We are safe on shore, after a rough passage. 
Thought you would like to hear this, but homeward-bound 
steamer is making signals for letters. Will write again soon. 
It seems a year since I left Hornby. Longer since I was at the 
farm. I have got my nosegay safe. Remember me to the 
Holmans. — Yours, ' E. H.' " 

" That's not much, certainly," said the minister. " But it's a 
comfort to know he's on land these blowy nights." 

Phillis said nothing. She kept her head bent down over her 
work ; but I don't think she put a stitch in, while I was reading 
the letter. I wondered if she understood what nosegay was 
meant ; but I could not tell. When next she lifted up her face, 
there were two spots of brilliant colotir on the cheeks that had 
been so pale before. After I had spent an hour or two there, I 
was bound to return back to Hornby. I told them I did not know 
when I could come again, as we — by which I mean the company 
— had undertaken the Hensleydale line ; that branch for which 
poor Holdsworth was surveying when he caught his fever. 

"But you'll have a holiday at Christmas," said my cousin. 
*' Surely they'll not be such heathens as to work you then?" 

" Perhaps the lad will be going home," said the minister, as if 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 225 

to mitigate his wife's urgency ; but for all that, I believe he 
wanted me to come. Phillis fixed her eyes on me with a wist- 
ful expression, hard to resist. Rut, indeed, I bad no thought of 
resisting. Under my new master I had no hope of a holiday long 
enough to enable me to go to Birmingham and see my parents 
with any comfort ; and nothing could be pleasanter to me than to 
find myself at home at my cousin's for a day or two, then. So it 
was fixed that we were to meet in Hornby Chapel on Christmas 
Day, and that I was to accompany them home after service, and 
if possible to stay over the next day. 

I was not able to get to chapel till late on the appointed day, 
and so I took a seat near the door in considerable shame, although 
it really was not my fault. When the service was ended I went 
and stood in the porch to await the coming out of my cousins. 
Some worthy people belonging to the congregation clustered into 
a group just where I stood, and exchanged the good wishes of 
the season. It had just begun to snow, and this occasioned a 
little delay, and they fell into further conversation. I was not 
attending to what was not meant for me to hear, till I caught 
the name of Phillis Holman. And then I listened ; where was 
the harm? 

" I never saw any one so changed ! " 

" I asked Mrs. Holman," quoth another, " ' Is Phillis well?' 
and she just said she had been having a cold which had pulled 
her down ; she did not seem to think anything of it." 

" They had best take care of her," said one of the oldest of the 
good ladies; " Phillis comes of a family as is not long-lived. Her 
mother's sister, Lydia Green, her own aunt as was, died of a 
decline just when she was about this lass's age." 

This ill-omened talk was broken in upon by the coming out of 
the minister, his wife and daughter, and the consequent inter- 
change of Christmas compliments. I had had a shock, and felt 
heavy-hearted and anxious, and hardly up to making the appro- 
priate replies to the kind greetings of my relations. I looked 
askance at Phillis. She had certainly grown taller and slighter, 
and was thinner ; but there was a flush of colour on her face which 
deceived me for a time, and made me think she was looking as 
well as ever. I only saw her paleness after we had returned to 
the farm, and she had subsided into silence and quiet. Her grey 
eyes looked hollow and sad ; her complexion was of a dead white. 



226 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

But she went about just as usual ; at least, just as she had done 
the last time I was there, and seemed to have no ailment ; and I 
was inclined to think that my cousin was right when she had 
answered the inquiries of the good-natured gossips, and told them 
that Phillis was suffering from the consequences of a bad cold, 
nothing more. 

I have said that I was to stay over the next day ; a great deal 
of snow had come down, but not all, they said, though the ground 
was covered deep with the white fall. The minister was anxiously 
housing his cattle, and preparing all things for a long continuance 
of the same kind of weather. The men were chopping wood, 
sending wheat to the mill to be ground before the road should be- 
come impassable for a cart and horse. My cousin and Phillis had 
gone upstairs to the apple-room to cover up the fruit from the 
frost. I had been out the greater part of the morning, and came 
in about an hour before dinner. To mysurprise, knowing how she 
had planned to be engaged, I found Phillis sitting at the dresser, 
resting her head on her two hands and reading, or seeming to read. 
She did not look up when I came in, but murmured something 
about her mother having sent her down out of the cold. It 
flashed across me that she was crying, but I put it down to some 
little spirt of temper ; I might have known better than to suspect 
the gentle, serene Phillis of crossness, poor girl ; I stooped down, 
and began to stir and build up the fire, which appeared to have 
been neglected. While my head was down I heard a noise which 
made me pause and listen — a sob, an unmistakable, irrepressible 
sob. I started up. 

" PhilHs ! " I cried, going towards her, with my hand out, to 
take hers for sympathy with her sorrow, whatever it was. But 
she was too quick for me, she held her hand out of my grasp, 
for fear of my detaining her ; as she quickly passed out of the 
house, she said — 

"Don't, Paul ! I cannot bear it ! " and passed me, still sobbing, 
and went out into the keen, open air. 

I stood still and wondered. What could have come to Phillis ? 
The most perfect harmony prevailed in the family, and Phillis 
especially, good and gentle as she was, was so beloved that if 
they had found out that her finger ached, it would have cast a 
shadow over their hearts. Had I done anything to vex her? 
No : she was crying before I came in. I went to look at her 
book — one of those unintelligible Italian books. I could make 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 227 

neither head nor tail of it. I saw some pencil-notes on the margin, 
in Holdsworth's handwriting. 

Could that be it? Could that be the cause of her white looks, 
her weary eyes, her wasted figure, her struggling sobs? This 
idea came upon me like a flash of lightning on a dark night, 
making all things so clear we cannot forget them afterwards when 
the gloomy obscurity returns. I was still standing with the book 
in my hand when I heard cousin Holman's footsteps on the stairs, 
and as I did not wish to speak to her just then, I followed Phillis's 
example, and rushed out of the house. The snow was lying on 
the ground ; I could track her feet by the marks they had made ; 
I could see where Rover had joined her. I followed on till I 
came to a great stack of wood in the orchard— it was built up 
against the back wall of the outbuildings, — and I recollected then 
how Phillis had told me, that first day when we strolled about 
together, that underneath this stack had been her hermitage, her 
sanctuary, when she was a child ; how she used to bring her book 
to study there, or her work, when she was not wanted in the 
house; and she had now evidently gone back to this quiet retreat 
of her childhood, forgetful of the clue given me by her footmarks 
on the new-fallen snow. The stack was built up very high ; but 
through the interstices of the sticks I could see her figure, 
although I did not all at once perceive how I could get to her. 
She was sitting on a log of wood, Rover by her. She had laid 
her cheek on Rover's head, and had her arm round his neck, 
partly for a pillow, partly from an instinctive craving for warmth 
on that bitter cold day. She was making a low moan, like an 
animal in pain, or perhaps more like the sobbing of the wind. 
Rover, highly flattered by her caress, and also, perhaps, touched 
by sympathy, was flapping his heavy tail against the ground, but 
not otherwise moving a hair, until he heard my approach with 
his quick erect ears. Then, with a short, abrupt bark of dis- 
trust, he sprang up as if to leave his mistress. Both he and I 
were immovably still for a moment. I was not sure if what I 
longed to do was wise ; and yet I could not bear to see the sweet 
serenity of my dear cousin's life so disturbed by a suffering which 
I thought I could assuage. But Rover's ears were sharper than 
my breathing was noiseless : he heard me, and sprang out from 
under Phillis's restraining hand. 

"Oh, Rover, don't you leave me too," she plained out. 

" Phillis ! " said I, seeing by Rover's exit that the entrance to 



2 28 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

where she sat was to be found on the other side of the stack. 
' ' PhilHs, come out ! You have got a cold ah-eady ; and it is not 
fit for you to sit there on such a day as this. You know how 
displeased and anxious it would make them all." 

She sighed, but obeyed ; stooping a little, she came out, and 
stood upright, opposite to me in the lonely, leafless orchard. Her 
face looked so meek and so sad that I felt as if I ought to beg her 
pardon for my necessarily authoritative words. 

' ' Sometimes I feel the house so close," she said ; " and I used 
to sit under the wood-stack when I was a child. It was very 
kind of you, but there was no need to come after me. I don't 
catch cold easily." 

"Come with me into this cow-house, Phillis. I have got 
something to say to you ; and I can't stand this cold, if you can." 

I think she would have fain run away again ; but her fit of 
energy was all spent. She followed me unwillingly enough — that 
I could see. The place to which I took her was full of the 
fragrant breath of the cows, and was a little warmer than the 
outer air. I put her inside, and stood myself in the doorway, 
thinking how I could best begin. At last I plunged into it. 

"I must see that you don't get cold for more reasons than one ; 
if you are ill, Holdsworth will be so anxious and miserable out 
there " (by which I meant Canada) — 

She shot one penetrating look at me, and then turned her face 
away with a slightly impatient movement. If she could have run 
away then she would, but I held the means of exit in my own 
power. " In for a penny in for a pound," thought I, and I went 
on rapidly, anyhow. 

" He talked so much about you, just before he left — that night 
after he had been here, you know— and you had given him. those 
flowers." She put her hands up to hide her face, but she was 
listening now— listening with all her ears. 

" He had never spoken much about you before, but the sudden 
going away unlocked his heart, and he told me how he loved 
you, and how he hoped on his return that you might be his wife." 

"Don't," said she, almost gasping out the word, which she 
had tried once or twice before to speak ; but her voice had been 
choked. Now she put her hand backwards ; she had quite 
turned away from me, and felt for mine. She gave it a soft 
lingering pressure ; and then she put her arms down on the 
wooden division., and laid her head on it, and cried quiet tears. 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 229 

I did not understand her at once, and feared lest I had mis- 
taken the whole case, and only annoyed her. I went up to her. 
"Oh, Phillis ! I am so sorry — I thought you would, perhaps, 
have cared to hear it ; he did talk so feelingly, as if he did 
love you so much, and somehow I thought it would give you 
pleasure." 

She lifted up her head and looked at me. Such a look ! Her 
-eyes, glittering with tears as they were, expressed an almost 
heavenly happiness ; her tender mouth was curved with rapture 
— her colour vivid and blushing ; but as if she was afraid her 
face expressed too much, more than the thankfulness to me 
she was essaying to speak, she hid it again almost immediately. 
•So it was all right then, and my conjecture was well founded. 
I tried to remember something more to tell her of what he had 
said, but again she stopped me. 

" Don't," she said. She still kept her face covered and hidden. 
In half a minute she added, in a very low voice, " Please, Paul, I 
think I would rather not hear any more — I don't mean but what 

I have — but what I am very much obliged Only — only, 1 

think I would rather hear the rest from himself when he comes 
back." 

And then she cried a little more, in quite a different way. I 
'did not say any more, I waited for her. By-and-by she turned 
towards me — not meeting my eyes, however ; and putting her 
hand in mine, just as if we were two children, she said — 

"We had best go back now — I don't look as if I had been 
crying, do I? 

' ' You look as if you had a bad cold," was all the answer I made. 

" Oh ! but I am — I am quite well, only cold ; and a good run 
will warm me. Come along, Paul." 

So we ran, hand in hand, till, just as we were on the threshold 
of the house, she stopped — 

" Paul, please, we won't speak about that again," 



230 COUSIN PHILLIS. 



PART IV. 



When I went over on Easter Day, I heard the chapel-gossips 
complimenting cousin Holman on her daughter's blooming looks, 
quite forgetful of their sinister prophecies three months before. 
And I looked at Phillis, and did not wonder at their words. I 
had not seen her since the day after Christmas Day. I had left 
the Hope Farm only a few hours after I had told her the news 
which had quickened her heart into renewed life and vigour. The 
remembrance of our conversation in the cow-house was vividly in 
my mind as I looked at her when her bright healthy appearance 
was remarked upon. As her eyes met mine our mutual recollec- 
tions flashed intelhgence from one to the other. She turned away, 
her colour heightening as she did so. She seemed to be shy of 
me for the first few hours after our meeting, and I felt rather 
vexed with her for her conscious avoidance of me after my long 
absence. I had stepped a little out of my usual line in telling her 
what I did ; not that I had received any charge of secrecy, or 
given even the sliglitest promise to Holdsworth that I would not 
repeat his words. But I had an uneasy feehng sometimes when I 
thought of what I had done in the excitement of seeing Phillis so 
ill and in so much trouble. I meant to have told Holdsworth 
when I wrote next to him ; but when I had my half-finished letter 
before me I sate with my pen in my hand hesitating. I had more 
scruple in reveahng what I had found out or guessed at of PhiUis's 
secret than in repeating to her his spoken words. I did not think 
I had any right to say out to him what I believed — namely, that 
she loved him dearly, and had felt his absence even to the injury 
of her health. Yet to explain what I had done in telling her how 
he had spoken about her that last night, it would be necessary to 
give my reasons, so I had settled within myself to leave it alone. 
As she had told me she should like to hear all the details and 
fuller particulars and more explicit declarations first from him, so 
he should have the pleasure of extracting the delicious tender 
secret from her maidenly lips. I would not betray my guesses, 
my surmises, my all but certain knowledge of the state of her 
heart. I had received two letters from him after he had settled 
to his business ; they were full of life and energy ; but in each 
there had been a message to the family at the Hope Farm of more 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 231 

than common regard ; and a slight but distinct mention of Phillis 
herself, showing that she stood single and alone in his memory. 
These letters I had sent on to the minister, for he was sure to care 
for them, even supposing he had been unacquainted with their 
writer, because they were so clever and so picturesquely worded 
that they brought, as it were, a whiff of foreign atmosphere into 
his circumscribed life. I used to wonder what was the trade or 
business in which the minister would not have thriven, mentally 
I mean, if it had so happened that he had been called into that 
state. He would have made a capital engineer, that I know; and 
he had a fancy for the sea, like many other land-locked men to 
whom the great deep is a mystery and a fascination. He read 
law-books with relish ; and once happening to borrow ' ' De Lolme 
on the British Constitution " (or some such title), he talked about 
jurisprudence till he was far beyond my depth. But to return to 
Holdsworth's letters. When the minister sent them back he also 
wrote out a list of questions suggested by their perusal, which I 
was to pass on in my answers to Holdsworth, until I thought of 
suggesting a direct correspondence between the two. That was 
the state of things as regarded the absent one when I went to the 
farm for my Easter visit, and when I found Phillis in that state of 
shy reserve towards me which I have named before. I thought 
she was ungrateful ; for I was not quite sure if I had done wisely 
in having told her what I did. I had committed a fault, or a 
folly, perhaps, and all for her sake ; and here was she, less 
friends with me than she had ever been before. This little 
estrangement only lasted a few hours. I think that as soon as 
she felt pretty sure of there being no recurrence, either by word, 
look, or allusion, to the one subject that was predominant in 
her mind, she came back to her old sisterly ways with me. She 
had much to tell me of her own familiar interests ; how Rover 
had been ill, and how anxious they had all of them been, and 
how, after some little discussion between her father and her, 
both equally grieved by the sufferings of the old dog, he had 
been *' remembered in the household prayers," and how he had 
begun to get better only the very next day, and then she would 
have led me into a conversation on the right ends of prayer, and 
on special providences, and I know not what ; only I "jibbed" 
like their old cart-horse, and refused to stir a step in that 
direction. Then we talked about the different broods of 
chickens, and she showed me the hens that were good mothers, 



232 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

and told me the characters of all the poultry with the utmost 
good faith ; and in all good faith I listened, for I believe there 
was a great deal of truth in all she said. And then we strolled 
on into the wood beyond the ash-meadow, and both of us sought 
for early primroses, and the fresh green crinkled leaves. She 
was not afraid of being alone with me after the first day. I 
never saw her so lovely, or so happy. I think she hardly knew 
why she was so happy all the time. I can see her now, standing 
under the budding branches of the grey trees, over which a 
tinge of green seemed to be deepening day after day, her sun- 
bonnet fallen back on her neck, her hands full of delicate wood- 
fiovvers, quite unconscious of my gaze, but intent on sweet 
mockery of some bird in neighbouring bush or tree. She had 
the art of warbling, and replying to the notes of different birds, 
and knew their song, their habits and ways, more accurately 
than any one else I ever knew. She had often done it at my 
request the spring before ; but this year she really gurgled, and 
whistled, and warbled just as they did, out of the very fulness 
and joy of her heart. She was more than ever the very apple of 
her father's eye ; her mother gave her both her own share of love 
and that of the dead child who had died in infancy. I have 
heard cousin Holman murmur, after a long dreamy look at 
Phillis, and tell herself how like she was growing to Johnnie, 
and soothe herself with plaintive inarticulate sounds, and many 
gentle shakes of the head, for the aching sense of loss she would 
never get over in this world. The old servants about the place 
had the dumb loyal attachment to the child of the land, common 
to most agricultural labourers ; not often stirred into activity or 
expression. My cousin Phillis was hke a rose that had come to 
full bloom on the sunny side of a lonely house, sheltered from 
storms. I have read in some book of poetry — 

" A maid whom there were none to praise. 
And very few to love." 

And somehow those lines always reminded me of Philhs ; yet 
they were not true of her either. I never heard her praised ; 
and out of her own household there were very few to love her ; 
but though no one spoke out their approbation, she always did 
right in her parents' eyes, out of her natural simple goodness 
and wisdom. Holdsworth's name was never mentioned between 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 233 

us when we were alone ; but I had sent on his letters to the 
minister, as I have said ; and more than once he began to talk 
about our absent friend, when he was smoking his pipe after 
the day's work was done. Then PhiUis hung her head a little 
over her work, and listened in silence. 

"I miss him more than I thought for; no offence to you, 
Paul. I said once his company was like dram-drinking ; that 
was before I knew him ; and perhaps I spoke in a spirit of 
judgment. To some men's minds everything presents itself 
strongly, and they speak accordingly ; and so did he. And 
I thought in my vanity of censorship that his were not true and 
sober words ; they would not have been if I had used them, but 
they were so to a man of his class of perceptions. I thought of 
the measure with which I had been meting to him when Brother 
Robinson was here last Thursday, and told me that a poor little 
quotation I was making from the Georgics savoured of vain 
babbling and profane heathenism. He went so far as to say 
that by learning other languages than our own, we were flying 
in the face of the Lord's purpose when He had said, at the 
building of the Tower of Babel, that He would confound their 
languages so that they should not understand each other's 
speech. As Brother Robinson was to me, so was I to the quick 
wits, bright senses, and ready words of Holdsworth." 

The first little cloud upon my peace came in the shape of a 
letter from Canada, in which there were two or three sentences 
that troubled me more than they ought to have done, to judge 
merely from the words employed. It was this : — " I should feel 
dreary enough in this out-of-the-way place if it were not for a 
friendship I have formed with a French Canadian of the name 
of Ventadour. He and his family are a great resource to me in 
the long evenings. I never heard such delicious vocal music as 
the voices of these Ventadour boys and girls in their part songs ; 
and the foreign element retained in their characters and manner 
of living reminds me of some of the happiest days of my life. 
Lucille, the second daughter, is curiously like Phillis Holman." 
In vain I said to myself that it was probably this likeness that 
made him take pleasure in the society of the Ventadour family. 
In vain I told my anxious fancy that nothing could be more 
natural than this intimacy, and that there was no sign of its 
leading to any consequence that ought to disturb me. I had a 
presentiment, and I was disturbed ; and I could not reason it 

H2 



234 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

away. I dare say my presentiment was rendered more per- 
sistent and keen by the doubts which would force themselves 
into my mind, as to whether I had done well in repeating 
Holdsworth's words to PhiUis. Her state of vivid happiness 
this summer was markedly different to the peaceful serenity of 
former days. If in my thoughtfulness at noticing this I caught 
her eye, she blushed and sparkled all over, guessing that I was 
remembering our joint secret. Her eyes fell before mine, as if 
she could hardly bear me to see the revelation of their bright 
glances. And yet I considered again, and comforted myself 
by the reflection that, if this change had been anything more 
than my silly fancy, her father or her mother would have 
perceived it. But they went on in tranquil unconsciousness 
and undisturbed peace. 

A change in my own life was quickly approaching. In the 

July of this year my occupation on the railway and its 

branches came to an end. The lines were completed, and I 

was to leave shire, to return to Birmingham, where there 

was a niche already provided for me in my father's prosperous 
business. But before I left the north it was an understood thing 
amongst us all that I was to go and pay a visit of some weeks at 
the Hope Farm. My father was as much pleased at this plan 
as I was ; and the dear family of cousins often spoke of things 
to be done, and sights to be shown me, during this visit. My 
want of wisdom in having told ' ' that thing " (under such ambigu- 
ous words I concealed the injudicious confidence I had made to 
PhiUis) was the only drawback to my anticipations of pleasure. 

The ways of life were too simple at the Hope Farm for my 
coming to them to make the slightest disturbance. I knew my 
room, like a son of the house. I knew the regular course of 
their days, and that I was expected to fall into it, like one of the 
family. Deep summer peace brooded over the place ; the warm 
golden air was filled with the murmur of insects near at hand, 
the more distant sound of voices out in the fields, the clear far- 
away rumble of carts over the stone-paved lanes miles away. 
The heat was too great for the birds to be singing ; only now 
and then one might hear the wood-pigeons in the trees beyond 
the ash-field. The cattle stood knee-deep in the pond, flicking 
their tails about to keep off the flies. The minister stood in the 
hay-field, without hat or cravat, coat or waistcoat, panting and 
smiling. Phillis had been leading the row of farm-servants, turn- 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 235 

ing the swathes of fragrant hay with measured movement. She 
went to the end — to the hedge, and then, throwing down her 
rake, she came to me with her free sisterly welcome. "Go, 
Paul ! " said the minister. "We need all hands to make use of 
the sunshine to-day. ' Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do 
it with all thy might.' It will be a healthy change of work for 
thee, lad; and I find my best rest in change of work." So 
off I went, a willing labourer, following Phillis's lead ; it was 
the primitive distinction of rank ; the boy who frightened the 
sparrows off the fruit was the last in our rear. We did not leave 
off till the red sun was gone down behind the fir-trees bordering 
the common. Then we went home to supper — prayers — to 
bed ; some bird singing far into the night, as I heard it through 
my open window, and the poultry beginning their clatter and 
cackle in the earliest morning. I had carried what luggage 
I immediately needed with me from my lodgings, and the rest 
was to be sent by the carrier. He brought it to the farm be- 
times that morning, and along with it he brought a letter or two 
that had arrived since I had left. I was talking to cousin Hol- 
man — about my mother's ways of making bread, I remember ; 
cousin Holman was questioning me, and had got me far beyond 
my depth — in the house-place, when the letters were brought in 
by one of the men, and I had to pay the carrier for his trouble 
before I could look at them. A bill — a Canadian letter ! What 
instinct made me so thankful that I was alone with my dear 
unobservant cousin? What made me hurry them away into 
my coat-pocket? I do not know. I felt strange and sick, and 
made irrelevant answers, I am afraid. Then I went to my 
room, ostensibly to carry up my boxes. I sate on the side of 
my bed and opened my letter from Holdsworth. It seemed to 
me as if I had read its contents before, and knew exactly what 
he had got to say. I knew he was going to be married to 
Lucille Ventadour ; nay, that he was married ; for this was the 
5th of July, and he wrote word that his marriage was fixed to 
take place on the 29th of June. I knew all the reasons he gave, 
all the raptures he went into. I held the letter loosely in my 
hands, and looked into vacancy, yet I saw a chaffinch's nest on 
the lichen-covered trunk of an old apple-tree opposite my 
window, and saw the m.other-bird come fluttering in to feed her 
brood— and yet I did not see it, although it seemed to me after- 
wards as if I could have drawn every fibre, every feather. I was 



236 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

stirred up to action by the merry sound of voices and the clamp 
of rustic feet coming home for the mid-day meal. I knew I 
must go down to dinner ; I knew, too, I must tell Phillis ; for 
in his happy egotism, his new-fangled foppery, Holdsworth 
had put in a P.S., saying that he should send wedding-cards to 
me and some other Hornby and Eltham acquaintances, and 
"to his kind friends at Hope Farm." Phillis had faded away 
to one among several "kind friends." I don't know how I got 
through dinner that day. I remember forcing myself to eat, 
and talking hard ; but I also recollect the wondering look in the 
minister's eyes. He was not one to think evil without cause ; 
but many a one would have taken me for drunk. As soon as I 
decently could I left the table, saying I would go out for a walk. 
At first I must have tried to stun reflection by rapid walking, for 
1 had lost myself on the high moorlands far beyond the familiar 
gorse-covered common, before I was obliged for very weariness 
to slacken my pace. I kept wishing — oh ! how fervently wish- 
ing I had never committed that blunder ; that the one little half- 
hour's indiscretion could be blotted out. Alternating with this 
was anger against Holdsworth ; unjust enough, I dare say. I 
suppose I stayed in that solitary place for a good hour or more, 
and then I turned homewards, resolving to get over the telling 
Phillis at the first opportunity, but shrinking from the fulfilment 
of my resolution so much that when I came into the house and 
saw Phillis (doors and windows open wide in the sultry weather) 
alone in the kitchen, I became quite sick with apprehension. 
She was standing by the dresser, cutting up a great household 
loaf into hunches of bread for the hungry labourers who might 
come in any minute, for the heavy thunderclouds were over- 
spreading the sky. She looked round as she heard my step. 

"You should have been in the field, helping with the hay," 
said she, in her calm, pleasant voice. I had heard her as I came 
near the house softly chanting some hymn-tune, and the peaceful- 
ness of that seemed to be brooding over her now. 

" Perhaps I should. It looks as if it was going to rain." 

" Yes, there is thunder about. Mother has had to go to bed 
with one of her bad headaches. Now you are come in " 

" Phillis," said I, rushing at my subject and interrupting her, 
" I went a long walk to think over a letter I had this morning — a 
letter from Canada. You don't know how it has grieved me. " I 
held it out to her as I spoke. Her colour changed a little, but it 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 237 

was more the reflection of my face, I think, than because she 
formed any definite idea from my words. Still she did not take 
the letter. I had to bid her read it, before she quite understood 
what I wished. She sate down rather suddenly as she received 
it into her hands ; and, spreading it on the dresser before her, she 
rested her forehead on the palms of her hands, her arms supported 
on the table, her figure a little averted, and her countenance thus 
shaded. I looked out of the open window ; my heart was very 
heavy. How peaceful it all seemed in the farmyard ! Peace and 
plenty. How still and deep was the silence of the house ! Tick- 
tick went the unseen clock on the wide staircase. I had heard 
the rustle once, when she turned over the page of thin paper. She 
must have read to the end. Yet she did not move, or say a word, 
or even sigh. I kept on looking out of the window, my hands in 
my pockets. I wonder how long that time really was? It seemed 
to me interminable — unbearable. At length I looked round at 
her. She must have felt my look, for she changed her attitude 
with a quick sharp movement, and caught my eyes. 

"Don't look so sorry, Paul," she said. "Don't, please. I can't 
bear it. There is nothing to be sorry for. I think not, at least. 
You have not done wrong, at any rate." I felt that I groaned, 
but I don't think she heard me. "And he, — there's no wrong in 
his marrying, is there ? I'm sure I hope he'll be happy. Oh ! 
how I hope it ! " These last words were like a wail ; but I be- 
lieve she was afraid of breaking down, for she changed the key in 
which she spoke, and hurried on. " Lucille — that's our English 
Lucy, I suppose ? Lucille Holdsvvorth ! It's a pretty name ; and 

I hope 1 forget what I was going to say. Oh ! it was this. 

Paul, I think we need never speak about this again ; only remem- 
ber you are not to be sorry. You have not done wrong ; you have 
been very, very kind ; and if I see you looking grieved I don't 
know what I might do ; — I might break down, you know." 

I think she was on the point of doing so then, but the dark 
storm came dashing down, and the thundercloud broke right 
above the house, as it seemed. Her mother, roused from sleep, 
called out for Phillis ; the men and women from the hayfield came 
running into shelter, drenched through. The minister followed, 
smiling, and not unpleasantly excited by the war of elements ; 
for, by dint of hard work through the long summer's day, the 
greater part of the hay was safely housed in the barn in the field. 
Once or twice in the succeeding bustle I came across Phillis, 



238 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

always busy, and, as it seemed to me, always doing the right 
thing. When I was alone in my own room at night I allowed 
myself to feel relieved : and to believe that the worst was over, 
and was not so very bad after all. But the succeeding days were 
very miserable. Sometimes I thought it must be my fancy that 
falsely represented Phillis to me as strangely changed, for surely, 
if this idea of mine was well-founded, her parents — her father 
and mother — her own flesh and blood — would have been the first 
to perceive it. Yet they went on in their household peace and 
content ; if anything, a little more cheerfully than usual, for the 
"harvest of the first fruits," as the minister called it, had been 
more bounteous than usual, and there was plenty all around, in 
which the humblest labourer was made to share. After the one 
thunderstorm, came one or two lovely serene summer days, during 
which the hay was all carried ; and then succeeded long soft rains 
fining the ears of corn, and causing the mown grass to spring 
afresh. The minister allowed himself a few more hours of relaxa- 
tion and home enjoyment than usual during this wet spell : hard 
earth-bound frost was his winter holiday ; these wet days, after 
the hay harvest, his summer holiday. We sate with open win- 
dows, the fragrance and the freshness called out by the soft-falling^ 
rain filling the house-place ; while the quiet ceaseless patter 
among the leaves outside ought to have had the same lulling 
effect as all other gentle perpetual sounds, such as mill-wheels 
and bubbling springs, have on the nerves of happy people. But 
two of us were not happy. I was sure enough of myself, for one. 
I was worse than sure, — I was wretchedly anxious about Phillis. 
Ever since that day of the thunderstorm there had been a new, 
sharp, discordant sound to me in her voice, a sort of jangle in her 
tone ; and her restless eyes had no quietness in them ; and her 
colour came and went without a cause that I could find out. The 
minister, happy in ignorance of what most concerned him, brought 
out his books ; his learned volumes and classics. Whether he 
read and talked to Phillis, or to me, I do not know ; but feeling 
by instinct that she was not, could not be, attending to the peace- 
ful details, so strange and foreign to the turmoil in her heart, I 
forced myself to listen, and if possible to understand. 

"Look here!" said the minister, tapping the old vellum- 
bound book he held ; "in the first Geologic he speaks of rolling 
and irrigation ; a little further on he insists on choice of the best 
seed, and advises us to keep the drains clear. Again, no Scotch 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 239 

farmer could give shrewder advice than to cut hght meadows 
while the dew is on, even though it involve night-work. It is all 
living truth in these days." He began beating time with a ruler 
upon his knee, to some Latin lines he read aloud just then. I 
suppose the monotonous chant irritated Phillis to some irregular 
energy, for I remember the quick knotting and breaking of the 
thread with which she was sewing. I never hear that snap re- 
peated now, without suspecting some sting or stab troubling the 
heart of the worker. Cousin Holman, at her peaceful knitting, 
noticed the reason why PhilHs had so constantly to interrupt the 
progress of her seam. 

"It is bad thread, I'm afraid," she said, in a gentle, sym- 
pathetic voice. But it was too much for PhiUis. 

"The thread is bad — everything is bad — I am so tired of it 
all ! " And she put down her work, and hastily left the room. 
I do not suppose that in all her life Phillis had ever shown so 
much temper before. In many a family the tone, the manner, 
would not have been noticed ; but here it fell with a sharp sur- 
prise upon the sweet, calm atmosphere of home. The minister 
put down ruler and book, and pushed his spectacles up to his 
forehead. The mother looked distressed for a moment, and then 
smoothed her features and said in an explanatory tone — "It's 
the weather, I think. Some people feel it different to others. It 
always brings on a headache with me." She got up to follow 
her daughter, but half-way to the door she thought better of it, 
and came back to her seat. Good mother ! she hoped the better 
to conceal the unusual spirt of temper, by pretending not to 
take much notice of it. "Go on, minister," she said; "it is 
very interesting what you are reading about, and when I don't 
quite understand it, I like the sound of your voice." So he went 
on, but languidly and irregularly, and beat no more time with 
his ruler to any Latin lines. When the dusk came on, early 
that July night because of the cloudy sky, Phillis came softly 
back, making as though nothing had happened. She took up 
her work, but it was too dark to do many stitches ; and she 
dropped it soon. Then I saw her hand stole into her mother's, 
and how this latter fondled it with quiet little caresses, while the 
minister, as fully aware as I was of this tender pantomime, went 
on talking in a happier tone of voice about things as uninterest- 
ing to him, at the time, I verily believe, as they were to me ; 
and that is saying a good deal, and shows how much more real 



240 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

what was passing before him was, even to a farmer, than the 
agricultural customs of the ancients. 

I remember one thing more — an attack which Betty the servant 
made upon me one day as I came in through the kitchen where she 
was churning, and stopped to ask her for a drink of butter-milk. 

"I say, cousin Paul" (she had adopted the family habit of 
addressing me generally as cousin Paul, and always speaking 
of me in that form), " something's amiss with our Phillis, and I 
reckon you've a good guess what it is. She's not one to take 
up wi' such as you" (not complimentary, but that Betty never 
was, even to those for whom she felt the highest respect), "but 
I'd as lief yon Holdsworth had never come near us. So there 
you've a bit o' my mind." 

And a very unsatisfactory bit it was. I did not know what to 
answer to the glimpse at the real state of the case implied in the 
shrewd woman's speech ; so I tried to put her off by assuming 
surprise at her first assertion. 

"Amiss with Phillis! I should like to know why you think 
anything is wrong with her. She looks as blooming as any one 
can do." 

" Poor lad ! you're but a big child, after all ; and you've likely 
never beared of a fever-flush. But you know better nor that, 
my fine fellow ! so don't think for to put me off wi' blooms and 
blossoms and such-like talk. What makes her walk about for 
hours and hours o' nights when she used to be abed and asleep? 
I sleep next room to her, and hear her plain as can be. What 
makes her come in panting and ready to drop into that chair," 
— nodding to one close to the door — " and it's ' Oh ! Betty, some 
water, please?' That's the way she comes in now, when she 
used to come back as fresh and bright as she went out. If yon 
friend o' yours has played her false, he's a deal for t' answer for : 
she's a lass who's as sweet and as sound as a nut, and the very 
apple of her father's eye, and of her mother's too, only wi' her 
she ranks second to th' minister. You'll have to look after yon 
chap, for I, for one, will stand no wrong to our Phillis." 

What was I to do, or to say? I wanted to justify Holdsworth, 
to keep Phillis's secret, and to pacify the woman all in the same 
breath. I did not take the best course, I'm afraid. 

" I don't believe Holdsworth ever spoke a word of — of love to 
her in all his life. I am sure he didn't." 

"Ay, ay! but there's eyes, and there's hands, as well as 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 241 

tongues ; and a man has two o' th' one and but one o' 
t'other." 

"And she's so young ; do you suppose her parents would not 
have seen it?" 

"Well ! if you ax me that, I'll say out boldly, ' No.' They've 
called her ' the child ' so long — ' the child ' is always their name 
for her when they talk on her between themselves, as if never 
anybody else had a ewe-lamb before them — that she's grown up 
to be a woman under their very eyes, and they look on her still 
as if she were in her long clothes. And you ne'er heard on a 
man falling in love wi' a babby in long clothes ! " 

" No ! " said I, half laughing. But she went on as grave as a 
judge. 

" Ay ! you see you'll laugh at the bare thought on it — and I'll 
be bound th' minister, though he's not a laughing man, would 
ha' sniggled at th' notion of falling in love wi' the child. Where's 
Holdsworth off to ? " 

" Canada," said I shortly. 

" Canada here, Canada there," she replied testily. " Tell me 
how far he's off, instead of giving me your gibberish. Is he a 
two days' journey away? or a three? or a week?" 

" He's ever so far off — three weeks at the least," cried I in 
despair. "And he's either married, or just going to be. So 
there ! " I expected a fresh burst of anger. But no ; the matter 
was too serious. Betty sate down, and kept silence for a minute 
or two. She looked so miserable and downcast, that I could not 
help going on, and taking her a little into my confidence. 

" It is quite true what I said. I know he never spoke a word 
to her. I think he hked her, but it's all over now. The best 
thing we can do — the best and kindest for her — and I know you 
love her, Betty " 

" I nursed her in my arms ; I gave her little brother his last 
taste o' earthly food," said Betty, putting her apron up to her 
eyes. 

' ' Well ! don't let us show her we guess that she is grieving ; 
she'll get over it the sooner. Her father and mother don't even 
guess at it, and we must make as if we didn't. It's too late now 
to do anything else." 

"I'll never let on; I know nought. I've known true love 
mysel', in my day. But I wish he'd been farred before he ever 
came near this house, with his ' Please Betty' this, and ' Please 



242 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

Betty ' that, and drinking up our new milk as if he'd been a cat. 
I hate such beguiling ways." 

I thought it was as well to let her exhaust herself in abusing 
the absent Holdsworth ; if it was shabby and treacherous in me, 
I came in for my punishment directly. 

" It's a caution to a man how he goes about beguiling. Some 
men do it as easy and innocent as cooing doves. Don't you be 
none of 'em, my lad. Not that you've got the gifts to do it, either; 
you're no great shakes to look at, neither for figure nor yet for 
face, and it would need be a deaf adder to be taken in wi' your 
words, though there may be no great harm in 'em." A lad of 
nineteen or twenty is not flattered by such an outspoken opinion 
even from the oldest and ugliest of her sex ; and I was only too 
glad to change the subject by my repeated injunctions to keep 
Phillis's secret. The end of our conversation was this speech of 
her's — 

" You great gaupus, for all you're called cousin o' th' minister 
— many a one is cursed wi' fools for cousins — d'ye think I can't 
see sense except through your spectacles ? I give you leave to 
cut out my tongue, and nail it up on th' barn-door for a caution 
to magpies, if I let out on that poor wench, either to herself, or 
any one that is hers, as the Bible says. Now you've heard me 
speak Scripture language, perhaps you'll be content, and leave 
me my kitchen to myself." 

During all these days, from the 5th of July to the 17th, I must 
have forgotten what Holdsworth had said about sending cards. 
And yet I think I could not have quite forgotten ; but, once 
having told Phillis about his marriage, I must have looked upon 
the after-consequence of cards as of no importance. At any rate, 
they came upon me as a surprise at last. The penny-post reform , 
as people call it, had come into operation a short time before ; but 
the never-ending stream of notes and letters which seem now to 
flow in upon most households had not yet begun its course ; at 
least in those remote parts. There was a post-office at Hornby ; 
and an old fellow, who stowed away the few letters in any or all 
his pockets, as it best suited him, was the letter-carrier to Heath- 
bridge and the neighbourhood. I have often met him in the lanes 
thereabouts, and asked him for letters. Sometimes I have come 
upon him, sitting on the hedge-bank resting ; and he has begged 
me to read him an address, too illegible for his spectacled eyes 
to decipher. When I used to inquire if he had anything for me, 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 243 

or for Holdswordi (he was not particular to whom he gave up the 
letters, so that he got rid of them somehow, and could set off 
homewards), he would say he thought that he had, for such was 
his invariable safe form of answer ; and would fumble in breast- 
pockets, waistcoat-pockets, breeches-pockets, and, as a last re- 
source, in coat-tail pockets ; and at length try to comfort me, if I 
looked disappointed, by telling me, " Hoo had missed this toime, 
but was sure to write to-morrow;" "hoo" representing an 
imaginary sweetheart. 

Sometimes I had seen the minister bring home a letter which 
he had found lying for him at the little shop that was the post- 
ofhce at Heathbridge, or from the grander establishment at 
Hornby. Once or twice Josiah, the carter, remembered that the 
old letter-carrier had trusted him with an epistle to " Measter," 
as they had met in the lanes. I think it must have been about 
ten days after my arrival at the farm, and my talk to Phillis 
cutting bread-and-butter at the kitchen dresser, before the day 
on which the minister suddenly spoke at the dinner-table, and 
said — 

" By-the-bye, I've got a letter in my pocket. Reach me my 
coat here, Phillis." The weather was still sultry, and for cool- 
ness and ease the minister was sitting in his shirt- sleeves. "I 
went to Heathbridge about the paper they had sent me, which 
spoils all the pens — and I called at the post-office, and found a 
letter for me, unpaid, — and they did not like to trust it to old 
Zekiel. Ay ! here it is ! Now we shall hear news of Holdsworth, 
— I thought I'd keep it till we were all together." My heart 
seemed to stop beating, and I hung my head over my plate, not 
daring to look up. What would come of it now ? What was 
Phillis doing? How was she looking? A moment of suspense, 
— and then he spoke again. "Why? what's this? Here are 
two visiting tickets with his name on, no writing at all. No ! it's 
not his name on both. Mrs. Holdsworth. The young man has 
gone and got married." I lifted my head at these words ; I could 
not help looking just for one instant at Phillis. It seemed to me 
as if she had been keeping watch over my face and ways. Her 
face was brilliantly flushed ; her eyes were dry and glittering ; 
but she did not speak ; her Hps were set together almost as if she 
was pinching them tight to prevent words or sounds coming out. 
Cousin Holman's face expressed surprise and interest. 

"Well!" said she, "who'd ha' thought it? He's made 



244 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

quick work of his wooing and wedding. I'm sure I wish him 
happy. Let me see" — counting on her fingers, — "October, 
November, December, January, February, March, April, May, 
June, July, — at least we're at the 28th, — it is nearly ten months 
after all, and reckon a month each way off" 

"Did you know of this news before?" said the minister, 
turning sharp round on me, surprised, I suppose, at my 
silence, — hardly suspicious, as yet. 

" I knew — I had heard — something. It is to a French Cana- 
dian young lady," I went on, forcing myself to talk. "Her 
name is Ventadour." 

"Lucille Ventadour!" said Phillis, in a sharp voice, out 
of tune. 

" Then you knew, too ! " exclaimed the minister. 

We both spoke at once. I said, " I heard of the probability 

of , and told Phillis." She said, " He is married to Lucille 

Ventadour, of French descent ; one of a large family near St. 
Meurice ; am not I right?" I nodded. "Paul told me,— 
that is all we know, is not it? Did you see the Howsons, 
father, in Heathbridge ? " and she forced herself to talk more 
than she had done for several days, asking many questions, 
trying, as I could see, to keep the conversation off the one 
raw surface, on which to touch was agony. I had less self- 
command ; but I followed her lead. I was not so much 
absorbed in the conversation but what I could see that 
the minister was puzzled and uneasy ; though he seconded 
Phillis's efforts to prevent her mother from recurring to the 
great piece of news, and uttering continual exclamations of 
wonder and surprise. But with that one exception we were 
all disturbed out of our natural equanimity, more or less. 
Every day, every hour, I was reproaching myself more and 
more for my blundering officiousness. If only I had held my 
foolish tongue for that one half-hour ; if only I had not been 
in such impatient haste to do something to relieve pain 1 I 
could have knocked my stupid head against the wall in my 
remorse. Yet all I could do now was to second the brave 
girl in her efforts to conceal her disappointment and keep her 
maidenly secret. But I thought that dinner would never, 
never come to an end. I suffered for her, even more than 
for myself. Until now everything which I had heard spoken^ 
in that happy household were simple words of true meaning. 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 245 

If we had aught to say, we said it ; and if any one preferred 
silence, nay, if all did so, there would have been no spasmodic, 
forced efforts to talk for the sake of talking, or to keep off in- 
trusive thoughts or suspicions. 

At length we got up from our places, and prepared to dis- 
perse ; but two or three of us had lost our zest and interest in 
the daily labour. The minister stood looking out of the window 
in silence, and when he roused himself to go out to the fields 
where his labourers were working, it was with a sigh ; and he 
tried to avert his troubled face as he passed us on his way to 
the door. When he had left us, I caught sight of Phillis's face,, 
as, thinking herself unobserved, her countenance relaxed for a 
moment or two into sad, woeful weariness. She started into 
briskness again when her mother spoke, and hurried away to do 
some little errand at her bidding. When we two were alone, 
cousin Holman recurred to Holdsworth's marriage. She was 
one of those people who like to view an event from every side 
of probability, or even possibility ; and she had been cut short 
from indulging herself in this way during dinner. 

"To think of Mr. Holdsworth's being married! I can't 
get over it, Paul. Not but what he was a very nice young 
man ! I don't like her name, though ; it sounds foreign. 
Sayv it again, my dear. I hope she'll know how to take care 
of him, English fashion. He is not strong, and if she does 
not see that his things are well aired, I should be afraid of the 
old cough." 

' ' He always said he was stronger than he had ever been 
before, after that fever." 

' ' He might think so, but I have my doubts. He was a very 
pleasant young man, but he did not stand nursing very well. 
He got tired of being coddled, as he called it. I hope they'll 
soon come back to England, and then he'll have a chance for 
his health. I wonder now, if she speaks English ; but, to be 
sure, he can speak foreign tongues like anything, as I've heard, 
the minister say." 

And so we went on for some time, till she became drowsy 
over her knitting, on the sultry summer afternoon ; and I stole 
away for a walk, for I wanted some solitude in which to think 
over things, and, alas ! to blame myself with poignant stabs of 
remorse. 

I lounged lazily as soon as I got to the wood. Here and 



246 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

there the bubbling, brawhng brook circled round a great stone, 
or a root of an old tree, and made a pool ; otherwise it coursed 
brightly over the gravel and stones. I stood by one of these 
for more than half-an-hour, or, indeed, longer, throwing bits of 
wood or pebbles into the water, and wondering what I could 
do to remedy the present state of things. Of course all my 
meditation was of no use ; and at length the distant sound of 
the horn employed to tell the men far afield to leave off work, 
warned me that it was six o'clock, and time for me to go home. 
Then I caught wafts of the loud-voiced singing of the evening 
psalm. As I was crossing the ash-field, I saw the minister at 
some distance talking to a man. I could not hear what they 
were saying, but I saw an impatient or dissentient (I could 
not tell which) gesture on the part of the former, who walked 
quickly away, and was apparently absorbed in his thoughts, 
for though he passed within twenty yards of me, as both our 
paths converged towards home, he took no notice of me. He 
passed the evening in a way which was even worse than dinner- 
time. The minister was silent, depressed, even irritable. Poor 
cousin Holman was utterly perplexed by this unusual frame of 
mind and temper in her husband ; she was not well herself, 
and was suffering from the extreme and sultry heat, which 
made her less talkative than usual. Phillis, usually so re- 
verently tender to her parents, so soft, so gentle, seemed now 
to take no notice of the unusual state of things, but talked to 
me — to any one, on indifferent subjects, regardless of her 
father's gravity, of her mother's piteous looks of bewilderment. 
But once my eyes fell upon her hands, concealed under the 
table, and I could see the passionate, convulsive manner in 
which she laced and interlaced her fingers perpetually, wring- 
ing them together from time to time, wringing till the com- 
pressed flesh became perfectly white. What could I do? I 
talked with her, as I saw she wished ; her grey eyes had dark 
circles round them, and a strange kind of dark light in them ; 
her cheeks were flushed, but her lips were white and wan. I 
wondered that others did not read these signs as clearly as I 
did. But perhaps they did ; I think, from what came after- 
wards, the minister did. 

Poor cousin Holman ! she worshipped her husband ; and the 
outward signs of his uneasiness were more patent to her simple 
heart than were her daughter's. After a while she could bear it 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 247 

no longer. She got up, and, softly laying her hand on his broad 
stooping shoulder, she said — 

" What is the matter, minister? Has anything gone wrong ? " 

He started as if from a dream. Phillis hung her head, and 
caught her breath in terror at the answer she feared. But he, 
looking round with a sweeping glance, turned his broad, wise 
face up to his anxious wife, and forced a smile, and took her 
hand in a reassuring manner. 

' ' I am blaming myself, dear. I have been overcome with anger 
this afternoon. I scarcely knew what I was doing, but I turned 
away Timothy Cooper. He has killed the Ribstone pippin at the 
corner of the orchard ; gone and piled the quicklime for the mor- 
tar for the new stable wall against the trunk of the tree — stupid 
fellow ! killed the tree outright — and it loaded with apples ! " 

"And Ribstone pippins are so scarce," said sympathetic cousin 
Holman. 

*' Ay ! But Timothy is but a half-wit ; and he has a wife and 
children. He had often put me to it sore, with his slothful ways, 
but I had laid it before the Lord, and striven to bear with him. 
But I will not stand it any longer, it's past my patience. And 
he has notice to find another place. Wife, we won't talk more 
about it." He took her hand gently off his shoulder, touched it 
with his lips ; but relapsed into a silence as profound, if not quite 
so morose in appearance, as before. I could not tell why, but 
this bit of talk between her father and mother seemed to take all 
the factitious spirits out of Phillis. She did not speak now, but 
looked out of the open casement at the calm large moon, slowly 
moving through the twilight sky. Once I thought her eyes were 
filling with tears ; but, if so, she shook them off, and arose with 
alacrity when her mother, tired and dispirited, proposed to go to 
bed immediately after prayers. We all said good-night in our 
separate ways to the minister, who still sat at the table with the 
great Bible open before him, not much looking up at any of our 
salutations, but returning them kindly. But when I, last of all, 
was on the point of leaving the room, he said, still scarcely look- 
ing up— 

" Paul, you will oblige me by staying here a few minutes. I 
would fain have some talk with you." 

I knew what was coming, all in a moment. I carefully shut-to 
the door, put out my candle, and sat down to my fate. He 
seemed to find some difficulty in beginning, for, if I had not 



248 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

heard that he wanted to speak to me, I should never have guessed 
it, he seemed so much absorbed in reading a chapter to the end. 
Suddenly he lifted his head up and said — 

" It is about that friend of yours, Holdsworth ! Paul, have you 
any reason for thinking he has played tricks upon Phillis? " 

I saw that his eyes were blazing with such a fire of anger at 
the bare idea, that I lost all my presence of mind, and only re- 
peated — 

" Played tricks on Phillis ! " 

" Ay ! you know what I mean : made love to her, courted her, 
made her think that he loved her, and then gone away and left 
her. Put it as you will, only give me an answer of some kind or 
another — a true answer, I mean — and don't repeat my words, 
Paul." 

He was shaking all over as he said this. I did not delay a 
moment in answering him — 

" I do not believe that Edward Holdsworth ever played tricks 
on Phillis, ever made love to her ; he never, to my knowledge, 
made her believe that he loved her." 

I stopped ; I wanted to nerve up my courage for a confession, 
yet I wished to save the secret of Phillis's love for Holdsworth as 
much as I could ; that secret which she had so striven to keep 
sacred and safe ; and I had need of some reflection before I went 
on with what I had to say. 

He began again before I had quite arranged my manner of 
speech. It was almost as if to himself — " She is my only child ; 
my little daughter ! She is hardly out of childhood : I have 
thought to gather her under my wings for years to come ; her 
mother and I would lay down our lives to keep her from harm 
and grief." Then raising his voice, and looking at me, he said, 
" Something has gone wrong with the child ; and it seems to me 
to date from the time she heard of that marriage. It is hard to 
think that you may know more of her secret cares and sorrows 
than I do, — but perhaps you do, Paul, perhaps you do, — only, 
if it be not a sin, tell me what I can do to make her happy again ; 
tell me." 

" It will not do much good, I am afraid," said I, " but I will 
own how wrong I did ; I don't mean wrong in the way of sin, 
but in the way of judgment. Holdsworth told me just before 
he went that he loved Phillis, and hoped to make her his wife, 
and I told her." 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 249 

There ! it was out ; all my part in it, at least ; and I set my 
lips tight together, and waited for the words to come. I did 
not see his face ; I looked straight at the wall opposite ; but I 
heard him once begin to speak, and then turn over the leaves 
m the book before him. How awfully still that room was ! 
The air outside, how still it was ! The open window let in no 
rustle of leaves, no twitter or movement of birds — no sound 
whatever. The clock on the stairs — the minister's hard breath- 
ing — was it to go on for ever? Impatient beyond bearing at 
the deep quiet, I spoke again — 

" I did it for the best, as I thought." 

The minister shut the book to hastily, and stood up. Then I 
saw how angry he was. 

" For the best, do you say? It was best, was it, to go and 
tell a young girl what you never told a word of to her parents, 
who trusted you like a son of their own?" 

He began walking about, up and down the room close under 
the open windows, churning up his bitter thoughts of me. 

" To put such thoughts into the child's head," continued he ; 
"to spoil her peaceful maidenhood with talk about another 
man's love; and such love, too," he spoke scornfully now — "a 
love that is ready for any young woman. Oh, the misery in my 
poor little daughter's face to-day at dinner — the misery, Paul ! 
I thought you were one to be trusted — your father's son too, to 
go and put such thoughts into the child's mind ; you two talking 
together about that man wishing to marry her." 

I could not help remembering the pinafore, the childish gar- 
ment which Phillis wore so long, as if her parents were unaware 
of her progress towards womanhood. Just in the same way the 
minister spoke and thought of her now, as a child, whose inno- 
cent peace I had spoiled by vain and foolish talk. I knew that 
the truth was different, though I could hardly have told it now ; 
but, indeed, I never thought of trying to tell ; it was far from 
my mind to add one iota to the sorrow which I had caused. 
The minister went on walking, occasionally stopping to move 
things on the table, or articles of furniture, in a sharp, impatient, 
meaningless way, then he began again — 

"So young, so pure from the world! how could you go and 
talk to such a child, raising hopes, exciting feelings — all to 
end thus ; and best so, even though I saw her poor piteous 
face look as it did? I can't forgive you, Paul; it was more 



250 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

than wrong — it was wicked — to go and repeat that man's 
words." 

His back was now to the door, and, in hstening to his low 
angry tones, he did not hear it slowly open, nor did he see 
Phillis, standing just within the room, until he turned round ; 
then he stood still. She must have been half undressed ; but 
she had covered herself with a dark winter cloak, which fell in 
long folds to her white, naked, noiseless feet. Her face was 
strangely pale : her eyes heavy in the black circles round them. 
She came up to the table very slowly, and leant her hand upon 
it, saying mournfully — 

" Father, you must not blame Paul. I could not help hearing 
a great deal of what you were saying. He did tell me, and 
perhaps it would have been wiser not, dear Paul ! But — oh, 
dear ! oh, dear ! I am so sick with shame ! He told me out 
of his kind heart, because he saw — that I was so very unhappy 
at his going away." 

She hung her head, and leant more heavily than before on 
her supporting hand. 

"I don't understand," said her father ; but he was beginning 
to understand. Phillis did not answer till he asked her again. 
I could have struck him now for his cruelty ; but then I 
knew all. 

" I loved him, father ! " she said at length, raising her eyes to 
the minister's face. 

" Had he ever spoken of love to you ? Paul says not ! " 

" Never." She let fall her eyes, and drooped more than ever. 
I almost thought she would fall. 

" I could not have believed it," said he, in a hard voice, yet 
sighing the moment he had spoken. A dead silence for a 
moment. " Paul ! I was unjust to you. You deserved blame, 
but not all that I said." Then again a silence. I thought I 
saw Phillis's white lips moving, but it might be the flickering of 
the candlelight — a moth had flown in through the open case- 
ment, and was fluttering round the flame ; I might have saved 
it, but I did not care to do so, my heart was too full of other 
things. At any rate, no sound was heard for long endless 
minutes. Then he said — " Phillis ! did we not make you happy 
here? Have we not loved you enough?" 

She did not seem to understand the drift of this question ; she 
looked up as if bewildered, and her beautiful eyes dilated with a- 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 251 

painful, tortured expression. He went on without noticing the 
look on her face ; he did not see it, I am sure. 

"And yet you would have left us, left your home, left your 
father and your mother, and gone away with this stranger, 
wandering over the world." 

He suffered, too ; there were tones of pain in the voice in which 
he uttered this reproach. Probably the father and daughter were 
never so far apart in their lives, so unsympathetic. Yet some 
new terror came over her, and it was to him she turned for help. 
A shadow came over her face, and she tottered towards her 
father ; falling down, her arms across his knees, and moaning 
out — 

" Father, my head ! my head ! " and then she slipped through 
his quick-enfolding arms, and lay on the ground at his feet. 

I shall never forget his sudden look of agony wliile I live ; 
never ! We raised her up ; her colour had strangely darkened ; 
she was insensible. I ran through the back-kitchen to the yard 
pump, and brought back water. The minister had her on his 
knees, her head against his breast, almost as though she were a 
sleeping child. He was trying to rise up with his poor precious 
burden, but the momentary terror had robbed the strong man 
of his strength, and he sank back in his chair with sobbing 
breath. 

" She is not dead, Paul ! is she?" he whispered, hoarse, as I 
came near him. 

I, too, could not speak, but I pointed to the quivering of the 
muscles round her mouth. Just then cousin Holman, attracted 
by some unwonted sound, came down. I remember I was sur- 
prised at the time at her presence of mind, she seemed to know 
so much better what to do than the minister, in the midst of the 
sick affright which blanched her countenance, and made her 
tremble all over. I think now that it was the recollection of 
what had gone before ; the miserable thought that possibly his 
words had brought on this attack, whatever it might be, that so 
unmanned the minister. We carried her upstairs, and while 
the women were putting her to bed, still unconscious, still slightly 
convulsed, I slipped out, and saddled one of the horses, and 
rode as fast as the heavy-trotting beast could go, to Hornby, to 
find the doctor there, and bring him back. He was out, might 
be detained the whole night. I remember saying, " God help 
us all ! " as I sate on my horse, under the window, through which 



253 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

the apprentice's head had appeared to answer my furious tugs at 
the night-bell. He was a good-natured fellow. He said — 

" He may be home in half-an-hour, there's no knowing ; but 
I dare say he will. I'll send him out to the Hope Farm directly 
he comes in. It's that good-looking young woman, Holman's 
daughter, that's ill, isn't it?" 

••Yes." 

" It would be a pity if she was to go. She's an only child, 
isn't she ? I'll get up, and smoke a pipe in the surgery, ready 
for the governor's coming home. I might go to sleep if I went 
to bed again." 

" Thank you, you're a good fellow ! " and I rode back almost 
as quickly as I came. 

It was a brain fever. The doctor said so, when he came in 
the early summer morning. I believe we had come to know the 
nature of the illness in the night-watches that had gone before. 
As to hope of ultimate recovery, or even evil prophecy of the 
probable end, the cautious doctor would be entrapped into 
neither. He gave his directions, and promised to come again ; 
so soon, that this one thing showed his opinion of the gravity of 
the case. 

By God's mercy she recovered, but it was a long, weary time 
first. According to previously made plans, I was to have gone 
home at the beginning of August. But all such ideas were put 
aside now, without a word being spoken. I really think that I 
was necessary in the house, and especially necessary to the 
minister at this time ; my father was the last man in the world, 
under such circumstances, to expect me home. 

I say I think I was necessary in the house. Every person (I 
had almost said every creature, for all the dumb beasts seemed 
to know and love Phillis) about the place went grieving and sad, 
as though a cloud was over the sun. They did their work, each 
striving to steer clear of the temptation to eye-service, in fulfil- 
ment of the trust reposed in them by the minister. For the day 
after Phillis had been taken ill, he had called all the men employed 
on the farm into the empty barn ; and there he had entreated 
their prayers for his only child ; and then and there he had told 
them of his present incapacity for thought about any other thing 
in this world but his little daughter, lying nigh unto death, and 
he had asked them to go on with their daily labours as best they 
could, without his direction. So, as I say, these honest men did 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 253 

their work to the best of their ability, but they slouched along 
with sad and careful faces, coming one by one in the dim morn- 
ings to ask news of the sorrow that overshadowed the house ; 
and receiving Betty's intelligence, always rather darkened by 
passing through her mind, with slow shakes of the head, and 
a dull wistfulness of sympathy. But, poor fellows, they were 
hardly fit to be trusted with hasty messages, and here my poor 
services came in. One time I was to ride hard to Sir William 
Bentinck's, and petition for ice out of his ice-house, to put on 
Phillis's head. Another it was to Eltham I must go, by train, 
horse, anyhow, and bid the doctor there come for a consultation, 
for fresh symptoms had appeared, which Mr. Brown, of Hornby, 
considered unfavourable. Many an hour have I sate on the 
window-seat, half way up the stairs, close by the old clock, 
listening in the hot stillness of the house for the sounds in the 
sick-room. The minister and I met often, but spoke together 
seldom. He looked so old — so old ! He shared the nursing 
with his wife ; the strength that was needed seemed to be given 
to them both in that day. They required no one else about 
their child. Every office about her was sacred to them ; even 
Betty only went into the room for the most necessary purposes. 
Once I saw Phillis through the open door ; her pretty golden 
hair had been cut off long before ; her head was covered with 
wet cloths, and she was moving it backwards and forwards on 
the pillow, with weary, never-ending motion, her poor eyes shut, 
trying in the old accustomed way to croon out a hymn tune, but 
perpetually breaking it up into moans of pain. Her mother sate 
by her, tearless, changing the cloths upon her head with patient 
solicitude. I did not see the minister at first, but there he was 
in a dark corner, down upon his knees, his hands clasped to- 
gether in passionate prayer. Then the door shut, and I saw 
no more. 

One day he was wanted ; and I had to summon him. Brother 
Robinson and another minister, hearing of his " trial," had come 
to see him. I told him this upon the stair-landing in a whisper. 
He was strangely troubled. 

"They will want me to lay bare my heart. I cannot do it. 
Paul, stay with me. They mean well ; but as for spiritual help 
at such a time — it is God only, God only, who can give it." 

So I went in with him. They were two ministers from the 
neighbourhood ; both older than Ebenezer Holman ; but evi- 



254 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

dently inferior to him in education and worldly position. I 
thought they looked at me as if I were an intruder, but remem- 
bering the minister's words I held my ground, and took up one 
of poor Phillis's books (of which I could not read a word) to have 
an ostensible occupation. Presently I was asked to "engage 
in prayer," and we all knelt down ; Brother Robinson " leading," 
and quoting largely, as I remember, from the Book of Job. He 
seemed to take for his text, if texts are ever taken for prayers, 
" Behold, thou hast instructed many ; but now it is come upon 
thee, and thou faintest, it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled." 
When we others rose up, the minister continued for some min- 
utes on his knees. Then he too got up, and stood facing us, 
for a moment, before we all sate down in conclave. After a 
pause Robinson began — 

"We grieve for you, Brother Holman, for your trouble is 
great. But we would fain have you remember you are as a 
light set on a hill ; and the congregations are looking at you 
with watchful eyes. We have been talking as we came along 
on the two duties required of you in this strait ; Brother Hodgson 
and me. And we have resolved to exhort you on these two 
points. First, God has given you the opportunity of showing 
forth an example of resignadon." Poor Mr. Holman visibly 
winced at this word. I could fancy how he had tossed aside 
such brotherly preachings in his happier moments ; but now 
his whole system was unstrung, and "resignation" seemed a 
term which presupposed that the dreaded misery of losing 
Phillis was inevitable. But good, stupid Mr. Robinson went on. 
" We hear on all sides that there are scarce any hopes of your 
child's recovery ; and it may be well to bring you to mind of 
Abraham ; and how he was willing to kill his only child when 
the Lord commanded. Take example by him. Brother Holman. 
Let us hear you say, ' The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh 
away. Blessed be the name of the Lord ! ' " 

There was a pause of expectancy. I verily believe the minister 
tried to feel it ; but he could not. Heart of flesh was too strong. 
Heart of stone he had not. 

" I will say it to my God, when He gives me strength — when 
the day comes," he spoke at last. 

The other two looked at each other, and shook their heads. 
I think the reluctance to answer as they wished was not quite 
unexpected. The minister went on : "There are hopes yet," 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 255 

he said, as if to himself. " God has given me a great heart for 
hoping, and I will not look forward beyond the hour." Then 
turning more to them, and speaking louder, he added : 
"Brethren, God will strengthen me when the time comes, 
when such resignation as you speak of is needed. Till then I 
cannot feel it ; and what I do not feel I will not express ; using 
words as if they were a charm," He was getting chafed, I 
could see. 

He had rather put them out by these speeches of his ; but 
after a short time, and some more shakes of the head, Robinson 
began again — 

" Secondly, we would have you listen to the voice of the rod, 
and ask yourself for what sins this trial has been laid upon you ; 
whether you may not have been too much given up to your farm 
and your cattle ; whether this world's learning has not puffed you 
up to vain conceit and neglect of the things of God ; whether you 
have not made an idol of your daughter ? " 

" I cannot answer — I will not answer ! " exclaimed the minister, 
" My sins I confess to God. But if they were scarlet (and they 
are so in His sight," he added humbly), " I hold with Christ 
that afflictions are not sent by God in wrath as penalties for sin." 

"Is that orthodox, Brother Robinson?" asked the third 
minister, in a deferential tone of inquiry. 

Despite the minister's injunction not to leave him, I thought 
matters were getting so serious that a little homely interruption 
would be more to the purpose than my continued presence, and 
I went round to the kitchen to ask for Betty's help. 

" 'Od rot 'em ! " said she ; " they're always a-coming at incon- 
venient times ; and they have such hearty appetites, they'll make 
nothing of what would have served master and you since our 
poor lass has been ill. I've but a bit of cold beef in th' house ; 
but I'll do some ham and eggs, and that '11 rout 'em from worry- 
ing the minister. They're a deal quieter after they've had their 
victual. Last time as old Robinson came, he was very repre- 
hensible upon master's learning, which he couldn't compass to 
save his life, so he needn't have been afeared of that temptation, 
and used words long enough to have knocked a body down ; 
but after me and missus had given him his fill of victual, and 
he'd had some good ale and a pipe, he spoke just like any other 
man, and could crack a joke with me." 

Their visit was the only break in the long weary days and 



256 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

nights. I do not mean that no other inquiries were made. I 
believe that all the neighbours hung about the place daily till 
they could learn from some out-comer how Phillis Holman was. 
But they knew better than to come up to the house, for the 
August weather was so hot that every door and window was kept 
constantly open, and the least sound outside penetrated all 
through. I am sure the cocks and hens had a sad time of it ; 
for Betty drove them all into an empty barn, and kept them 
fastened up in tlie dark for several days, with very little effect as 
regarded their crowing and clacking. At length came a sleep 
which was the crisis, and from which she wakened up with a new 
faint life. Her slumber had lasted many, many hours. We 
scarcely dared to breathe or move during the time ; we had 
striven to hope so long, that we were sick at heart, and durst 
not trust in the favourable signs : the even breathing, the 
moistened skin, the shght return of delicate colour into the pale, 
wan lips. I recollect stealing out that evening in the dusk, and 
wandering down the grassy lane, under the shadow of the over- 
arching elms to the little bridge at the foot of the hill, where the 
lane to the Hope Farm joined another road to Hornby. On the 
low parapet of that bridge I found Timothy Cooper, the stupid, 
half-witted labourer, sitting, idly throwing bits of mortar into the 
brook below. He just looked up at me as I came near, but gave 
me no greeting, either by word or gesture. He had generally 
made some sign of recognition to me, but this time I thought he 
was sullen at being dismissed. Nevertheless I felt as if it would 
be a relief to talk a little to some one, and I sate down by him. 
While I was thinking how to begin, he yawned wearily. 

"You are tired, Tim," said I. 

"Ay," said he. " But I reckon I may go home now." 

" Have you been sitting here long?" 

"Welly all day long. Leastways sin' seven i' th' morning. 

" Why, what in the world have you been doing?" 

"Nought." 

" Why have you been sitting here, then?" 

" T' keep carts off." He was up now, stretching himself, and 
shaking his lubberly limbs. 

" Carts ! what carts?" 

"Carts as might ha' wakened yon wench! It's Hornby 
market-day. I reckon yo're no better nor a half-wit yoursel'." 
He cocked his eye at me as if he were gauging my intellect. 



COUSIN PHILLIS. 257 

"And have you been sitting here all day to keep the lane 
quiet?" 

"Ay. I've nought else to do. Th' minister has turned me 
adrift. Have yo' heard how th' lass is faring to-night?" 

"They hope she'll waken better for this long sleep. Good- 
night to you, and God bless you, Timothy," said I. 

He scarcely took any notice of my words, as he lumbered 
across a stile that led to his cottage. Presently I went home to 
the farm. Phillis had stirred, had spoken two or three faint 
words. Her mother was with her, dropping nourishment into 
her scarce conscious mouth. The rest of the household were 
summoned to evening prayer for the first time for many days. 
It was a return to the daily habits of happiness and health. But 
in these silent days our very lives had been an unspoken prayer. 
Now we met in the house-place, and looked at each other with 
strange recognition of the thankfulness on all our faces. We 
knelt down ; we waited for the minister's voice. He did not 
begin as usual. He could not ; he was choking. Presently 
we heard the strong man's sob. Then old John turned round 
on his knees, and said — 

* ' Minister, I reckon we have blessed the Lord wi' all our 
souls, though we've ne'er talked about it ; and maybe He'll not 
need spoken words this night. God bless us all, and keep our 
Phillis safe from harm ! Amen." 

Old John's impromptu prayer was all we had that night. 

"Our Phillis," as he had called her, grew better day by day 
from that time. Not quickly ; I sometimes grew desponding, 
and feared that she would never be what she had been before ; 
no more she has, in some ways. 

I seized an early opportunity to tell the minister about Timothy 
Cooper's unsolicited watch on the bridge during the long sum- 
mer's day. 

"God forgive me!" said the minister. "I have been too 
proud in my own conceit. The first steps I take out of this 
house shall be to Cooper's cottage." 

I need hardly say Timothy was reinstated in his place on the 
farm ; and I have often since admired the patience with which 
his master tried to teach him how to do the easy work which 
was henceforward carefully adjusted to his capacity. 

Phillis was carried downstairs, and lay for hour after hour 
quite silent on the great sofa, drawn up under the windows of 

I 



258 COUSIN PHILLIS. 

the house-place. She seemed always the same, gentle, quiet, 
and sad. Her energy did not return with her bodily strength. 
It was sometimes pitiful to see her parents' vain endeavours to 
rouse her to interest. One day the minister brought her a set 
of blue ribbons, reminding her with a tender smile of a former 
conversation in which she had owned to a love of such feminine 
vanities. She spoke gratefully to him, but when he was gone 
she laid them on one side, and languidly shut her eyes. Another 
time I saw her mother bring her the Latin and Italian books that 
she had been so fond of before her illness — or, rather, before 
Holdsworth had gone away. That was worst of all. She turned 
her face to the wall, and cried as soon as her mother's back was 
turned. Betty was laying the cloth for the early dinner. Her 
sharp eyes saw the state of the case. 

" Now, Phillis ! " said she, coming up to the sofa; "we ha' 
done a' we can for you, and th' doctors has done a' they can for 
you, and I think the Lord has done a' He can for you, and more 
than you deserve, too, if you don't do something for yourself. 
If I were you, I'd rise up and snuff the moon, sooner than 
break your father's and your mother's hearts wi' watching and 
waiting till it pleases you to fight your own way back to cheer- 
fulness. There, I never favoured long preachings, and I've said 
my say." 

A day or two after Phillis asked me, when we were alone, if I 
thought my father and mother would allow her to go and stay 
with them for a couple of months. She blushed a little as she 
faltered out her wish for change of thought and scene. 

"Only for a short time, Paul. Then — we will go back to the 
peace of the old days. I know we shall ; I can, and I will ! " 



I 



THE GREY WOMAN. 



PORTION I. 

THERE is -a mill by the Neckar-side, to which many people 
resort for coffee, according to the fashion which is almost 
national in Germany. There is nothing particularly attractive in 
the situation of this mill ; it is on the Mannheim (the flat and un- 
romantic) side of Heidelberg. The river turns the mill-wheel with 
a plenteous gushing sound ; the out-buildings and the dwelling- 
house of the miller form a well-kept dusty quadrangle. Again, 
further from the river there is a garden full of willows, and arbours, 
and flower-beds not well kept, but very profuse in flowers and 
luxuriant creepers, knotting and looping the arbours together. 
In each of these arbours is a stationary table of white painted 
wood, and light movable chairs of the same colour and material. 
I went to drink coffee there with some friends in 184 — . The 
stately old miller came out to greet us, as some of the party were 
known to him of old. He was of a grand build of a man, and 
his loud musical voice, with its tone friendly and familiar, his 
rolling laugh of welcome, went well with the keen bright eye, the 
fine cloth of his coat, and the general look of substance about the 
place. Poultry of all kinds abounded in the mill-yard, where 
there were ample means of livelihood for them strewed on the 
ground ; but not content with this, the miller took out handfuls 
of corn from the sacks, and threw liberally to the cocks and hens 
that ran almost under his feet in their eagerness. And all the 
time he was doing this, as it were habitually, he was talking to 
us, and ever and anon calling to his daughter and the serving- 
maids, to bid them hasten the coffee we had ordered. He 
followed us to an arbour, and saw us served to his satisfaction 
with the best of everything we could ask for ; and then left us to 
go round to the different arbours and see that each party was 
259 



26o THE GREY WOMAN. 

properly attended to ; and, as he went, this great, prosperous, 
happy-looking man whistled softly one of the most plaintive airs 
I ever heard. 

" His family have held this mill ever since the old Palatinate 
days ; or rather, I should say, have possessed the ground ever 
since then, for two successive mills of theirs have been burnt 
down by the French. If you want to see Scherer in a passion, 
just talk to him of the possibility of a French invasion." 

But at this moment, still whisthng that mournful air, we saw 
the miller going down the steps that led from the somewhat 
raised garden into the mill-yard ; and so I seemed to have lost 
my chance of putting him in a passion. 

We had nearly finished our coffee, and our "kucken," and 
our cinnamon cake, when heavy splashes fell on our thick leafy 
covering ; quicker and quicker they came, coming through the 
tender leaves as if they were tearing them asunder ; all the 
people in the garden were hurrying under shelter, or seeking for 
their carriages standing outside. Up the steps the miller came 
hastening, with a crimson umbrella, fit to cover every one left 
in the garden, and followed by his daughter, and one or two 
maidens, each bearing an umbrella. 

"Come into the house — come in, I say. It is a summer- 
storm, and will flood the place for an hour or two, till the river 
carries it away. Here, here." 

And we followed him back into his own house. We went into 
the kitchen first. Such an array of bright copper and tin vessels 
I never saw ; and all the wooden things were as thoroughly 
scoured. The red tile floor was spotless when we went in, but 
in two minutes it was all over slop and dirt with the tread of 
many feet ; for the kitchen was filled, and still the worthy miller 
kept bringing in more people under his great crimson umbrella. 
He even called the dogs in, and made them lie down under the 
tables. 

His daughter said something to him in German, and he shook 
his head merrily at her. Everybody laughed. 

' ' What did she say ? " I asked. 

" She told him to bring the ducks in next ; but indeed if more 
people come we shall be suffocated. What with the thundery 
weather, and the stove, and all these steaming clothes, I really 
think we must ask leave to pass on. Perhaps we might go in 
and see Frau Scherer." 



THE GREY WOMAN. 261 

My friend asked the daughter of the house for permission to 
go into an inner chamber and see her mother. It was granted, 
and we went into a sort of saloon, overlooking the Neckar ; very 
small, very bright, and very close. The floor was slippery with 
pohsh ; long narrow pieces of looking-glass against the walls 
reflected the perpetual motion of the river opposite ; a white 
porcelain stove, with some old-fashioned ornaments of brass 
about it ; a sofa, covered with Utrecht velvet, a table before it, 
and a piece of worsted-worked carpet under it ; a vase of artificial 
flowers ; and, lastly, an alcove with a bed in it, on which lay the 
paralysed wife of the good miller, knitting busily, formed the 
furniture. I spoke as if this was all that was to be seen in the 
room ; but, sitting quietly, while my friend kept up a brisk con- 
versation in a language which I but half understood, my eye was 
caught by a picture in a dark corner of the room, and I got up 
to examine it more nearly. 

It was that of a young girl of extreme beauty : evidently of 
middle rank. There was a sensitive refinement in her face, as if 
she almost shrank from the gaze which, of necessity, the painter 
must have fixed upon her. It was not over-well painted, but I 
felt that it must have been a good likeness, from this strong 
impress of peculiar character which I have tried to describe. 
From the dress, I should guess it to have been painted in the 
latter half of the last century. And I afterwards heard that I 
was right. 

There was a little pause in the conversation. 

"Will you ask Frau Scherer who this is ? " 

My friend repeated my question, and received a long reply in 
German, Then she turned round and translated it to me. 

"It is the likeness of a great-aunt of her husband's." (My 
friend was standing by me, and looking at the picture with 
sympathetic curiosity.) "See! here is the name on the open 
page of this Bible, ' i\nna Scherer, 1778.' Frau Scherer says 
there is a tradition in the family that this pretty girl, with her 
complexion of lilies and roses, lost her colour so entirely through 
fright, that she was known by the name of the Grey Woman. 
She speaks as if this Anna Scherer lived in some state of life- 
long terror. But she does not know details ; refers me to her 
husband for them. She thinks he has some papers which were 
written by the original of that picture for her daughter, who 
died in this very house not long after our friend there was 



262 THE GREY WOMAN. 

married. We can ask Herr Scherer for the whole story if you 
like." 

"Oh yes, pray do!" said I. And, as our host came in at 
this moment to ask how we were faring, and to tell us that he 
had sent to Heidelberg for carriages to convey us home, seeing 
no chance of the heavy rain abating, my friend, after thanking 
him, passed on to my request. 

"Ah!" said he, his face changing, "the aunt Anna had a 
sad history. It was all owing to one of those hellish French- 
men ; and her daughter suffered for it — the cousin Ursula, as 
we all called her when I was a child. To be sure, the good 
cousin Ursula was his child as well. The sins of the fathers 
are visited on their children. The lady would like to know all 
about it, would she ? Well, there are papers — a kind of apology 
the aunt Anna wrote for putting an end to her daughter's engage- 
ment — or rather facts which she revealed, that prevented cousin 
Ursula from marrying the man she loved ; and so she would 
never have any other good fellow, else I have heard say my 
father would have been thankful to have made her his wife." 
All this time he was rummaging in the drawer of an old- 
fashioned bureau, and now he turned round, with a bundle of 
yellow MSS. in his hand, which he gave to my friend, saying, 
•' Take it home, take it home, and if you care to make out our 
crabbed German writing, you may keep it as long as you like. 
and read it at your leisure. Only I must have it back again 
when you have done with it, that's all." 

And so we became possessed of the manuscript of the follow- 
ing letter, which it was our employment, during many a long 
evening that ensuing winter, to translate, and in some parts to 
abbreviate. The letter began with some reference to the pain 
which she had already inflicted upon her daughter by some un- 
explained opposition to a project of marriage ; but I doubt if, 
without the clue with which the good miller had furnished us, 
we could have made out even this much from the passionate, 
broken sentences that made us fancy that some scene between 
the mother and daughter — and possibly a third person — had 
occurred just before the mother had begun to write. 

"Thou dost not love thy child, mother ! Thou dost not care 
if her heart is broken ! " Ah, God ! and these words of my 
heart-beloved Ursula ring in my ears as if the sound of them 



THE GREY WOMAN. .263 

would fill them when I lie a-dying. And her poor tear-stained 
face comes between me and everything else. Child ! hearts do 
not break ; life is very tough as well as very terrible. But I will 
not decide for thee. I will tell all ; and thou shalt bear the 
burden of choice. I may be wrong ; I have little wit left, and 
never had much, I think ; but an instinct serves me in place of 
judgment, and that instinct tells me that thou and thy Henri 
must never be married. Yet I may be in error. I would fain 
make my child happy. Lay this paper before the good priest 
Schriesheim ; if, after reading it, thou hast doubts which make 
thee uncertain. Only I will tell thee all now, on condition that 
no spoken word ever passes between us on the subject. It 
would kill me to be questioned. I should have to see all 
present again. 

My father held, as thou knowest, the mill on the Neckar, 
where thy new-found uncle, Scherer, now lives. Thou remem- 
berest the surprise with which we were received there last 
vintage twelvemonth. How thy uncle disbelieved me when I 
said that I was his sister Anna, whom he had long believed to 
be dead, and how I had to lead thee underneath the picture, 
painted of me long ago, and point out, feature by feature, the 
likeness between it and thee ; and how, as I spoke, I recalled 
first to my own mind, and then by speech to his, the details 
of the time when it was painted ; the merry words that passed 
between us then, a happy boy and girl ; the position of the 
articles of furniture in the room ; our father's habits ; the 
cherry-tree, now cut down, that shaded the window of my bed- 
room, through which my brother was wont to squeeze himself, 
in order to spring on to the topmost bough that would bear 
his weight ; and thence would pass me back his cap laden with 
fruit to where I sat on the window-sill, too sick with fright for 
him to care much for eating the cherries. 

And at length Fritz gave way, and believed me to be his sister 
Anna, even as though I were risen from the dead. And thou 
rememberest how he fetched in his wife, and told her that I was 
not dead, but was come back to the old home once more, changed 
as I was. And she would scarce believe him, and scanned me with 
a cold, distrustful eye, till at length — for I knew her of old as 
Babette Miiller — I said that I was well-to-do, and needed not to 
seek out friends for what they had to give. And then she asked— 
not me, but her husband— why I had kept silent so long, leading 



264 THE GREY WOMAN. 

all — father, brother, every one that loved me in my own dear 
home — to esteem me dead. And then thine uncle (thou remem- 
berest ?) said he cared not to know more than I cared to tell ; that 
I was his Anna, found again, to be a blessing- to him in his old 
age, as I had been in his boyhood. I thanked him in my heart 
for his trust ; for were the need for telhng all less than it seems to 
me now I could not speak of my past hfe. But she, who was my 
sister-in-law still, held back her welcome, and, for want of that, 
I did not go to hve in Heidelberg as I had planned beforehand, in 
order to be near my brother Fritz, but contented myself with his 
promise to be a father to my Ursula when I should die and leave 
this weary world. 

That Babette Miiller was, as I may say, the cause of all my 
life's suffering. She was a baker's daughter in Heidelberg— a 
great beauty, as people said, and, indeed, as I could see for 
myself. I, too — thou sawest my picture — was reckoned a beauty, 
and I believe I was so. Babette Miiller looked upon me as a 
rival. She liked to be admired, and had no one much to love her. 
I had several people to love me — thy grandfather, Fritz, the old 
servant Katchen, Karl, the head apprentice at the mill — and I 
feared admiration and notice, and the being stared at as the 
" Schone Miillerin," whenever I went to make my purchases in 
Heidelberg. 

Those were happy, peaceful days. I had Katchen to help me 
in the housework, and whatever we did pleased my brave old 
father, who was always gentle and indulgent towards us women, 
though he was stern enough with the apprentices in the mill. 
Karl, the oldest of these, was his favourite ; and I can see now 
that my father wished him to marry me, and that Karl himself 
was desirous to do so. But Karl was rough-spoken, and passion- 
ate—not with me, but with the others — and I shrank from him in a 
way which, I fear, gave him pain. And then came thy uncle Fritz's 
marriage ; and Babette was brought to the mill to be its mistress. 
Not that I cared much for giving up my post, for, in spite of my 
father's great kindness, I always feared that I did not manage well 
for so large a family (with the men, and a girl under Katchen, we 
sat down eleven each night to supper). But when Babette began 
to find fault with Katchen, I was unhappy at the blame that fell 
on faithful servants ; and by-and-by I began to see that Babette 
was egging on Karl to make more open love to me, and, as she 
once said, to get done with it, and take me off to a home of my 



THE GREY WOMAN. 265 

own. My father was growing old, and did not perceive all my 
daily discomfort. The more Karl advanced, the more I disliked 
him. He was good in the main, but I had no notion of being 
married, and could not bear any one who talked to me about it. 

Things were in this way when I had an invitation to go to 
Carlsruhe to visit a schoolfellow, of whom I had been very fond. 
Babette was all for my going ; 1 don't think I wanted to leave 
home, and yet I had been very fond of Sophie Rupprecht. But 
I was always shy among strangers. Somehow the affair was 
settled for me, but not until both Fritz and my father had made 
inquiries as to the character and position of the Rupprechts. 
They learned that tlie father had held some kind of inferior 
position about the Grand-duke's court, and was now dead, leaving 
a widow, a noble lady, and two daughters, the elder of whom was 
Sophie, my friend. Madame Rupprecht was not rich, but more 
than respectable — genteel. When this was ascertained, my father 
made no opposition to my going ; Babette forwarded it by all the 
means in her power, and even my dear Fritz had his word to say 
in its favour. Only Katchen was against it — Katchen and Karl. 
The opposition of Karl did more to send me to Carlsruhe than 
anything. For I could have objected to go ; but when he took 
upon himself to ask what was the good of going a-gadding, visiting 
strangers of whom no one knew anything, I yielded to circum- 
stances — to the puUing of Sophie and the pushing of Babette. I 
was silently vexed, I remember, at Babette's inspection of my 
clothes ; at the way in which she settled that this gown was too 
old-fashioned, or that too common, to go with me on my visit to a 
noble lady ; and at the way in which she took upon herself to 
spend the money my father had given me to buy what was 
requisite for the occasion. And yet I blamed myself, for every 
one else thought her so kind for doing all this ; and she herself 
meant kindly, too. 

At last I quitted the mill by the Neckar-side. It was a long 
day's journey, and Fritz went with me to Carlsruhe. The 
Rupprechts lived on the third floor of a house a little behind one 
of the principal streets, in a cramped-up court, to which we gained 
admittance through a doorway in the street. I remember how 
pinched their rooms looked after the large space we had at the 
mill, and yet they had an air of grandeur about them which was 
new to me, and which gave me pleasure, faded as some of it was. 
Madame Rupprecht was too formal a lady for me ; I was never at 

I 2 



266 THE GREY WOMAN. 

my ease with her ; but Sophie was all that I had recollected her 
at school — kind, affectionate, and only rather too ready with her 
expressions of admiration and regard. The little sister kept out 
of our way ; and that was all we needed, in the first enthusiastic 
renewal of our early friendship. The one great object of Madame 
Rupprecht's life was to retain her position in society ; and as her 
means were much diminished since her husband's death, there was 
not much comfort, though there was a great deal of show, in their 
way of living ; just the opposite of what it was at my father's 
house. I believe that my coming was not too much desired by 
Madame Rupprecht, as I brought with me another mouth to be 
fed ; but Sophie had spent a year or more in entreating for 
permission to invite me, and her mother, having once consented, 
was too well-bred not to give me a stately welcome. 

The life in Carlsruhe was very different from what it was at 
home. The hours were later, the coffee was weaker in the 
morning, the pottage was weaker, the boiled beef less relieved 
by other diet, the dresses finer, the evening engagements constant. 
I did not find these visits pleasant. We might not knit, which 
would have relieved the tedium a little ; but we sat in a circle, 
talking together, only interrupted occasionally by a gentleman, 
who, breaking out of the knot of men who stood near the door, 
talking eagerly together, stole across the room on tiptoe, his hat 
under his arm, and bringing his feet together in the position we 
call the first at the dancing-school, made a low bow to the lady 
he was going to address. The first time I saw these manners I 
could not help smihng ; but Madame Rupprecht saw me, and 
spoke to me next morning rather severely, telling me that, of 
course, in my country breeding I could have seen nothing of 
court manners, or French fashions, but that that was no reason for 
my laughing at them. Of course I tried never to smile again in 
company. This visit to Carlsruhe took place in '89, just when 
every one was full of the events taking place at Paris ; and yet 
at Carlsruhe French fashions were more talked of than French 
politics. Madame Rupprecht, especially, thought a great deal 
of all French people. And this again was quite different to us at 
home. Fritz could hardly bear the name of a Frenchman ; and it 
had nearly been an obstacle to my visit to Sophie that her mother 
preferred being called Madame to her proper title of Frau. 

One night I was sitting next to Sophie, and longing for the 
time when we might have supper and go home, so as to be able 



THE GREY WOMAN. 267 

to speak together, a thing forbidden by Madame Riipprecht's 
rules of etiquette, which strictly prohibited any but the most 
necessary conversation passing between members of the same 
family when in society. I was sitting, I say, scarcely keeping 
back my inclination to yawn, when two gentlemen came in, one 
of whom was evidently a stranger to the whole party, from the 
formal manner in which the host led him up, and presented him 
to the hostess. I thought I had never seen any one so handsome 
or so elegant. His hair was powdered, of course, but one could 
see from his complexion that it was fair in its natural state. His 
features were as 'delicate as a girl's, and set off by two little 
"mouches," as we called patches in those days, one at the left 
corner of his mouth, the other prolonging, as it were, the right 
eye. His dress was blue and silver. I was so lost in admiration 
of this beautiful young man, that I was as much surprised as if 
the angel Gabriel had spoken to me, when the lady of the house 
brought him forward to present him to me. She called him 
Monsieur de la Tourelle, and he began to speak to me in French ; 
but though I understood him perfectly, I dared not trust myself 
to reply to him in that language. Then he tried German, speak- 
ing it with a kind of soft hsp that I thought charming. But, 
before the end of the evening, I became a little tired of the affected 
softness and effeminacy of his manners, and the exaggerated com- 
pliments he paid me, which had the effect of making all the 
company turn round and look at me. Madame Rupprecht was, 
however, pleased with the precise thing that displeased me. She 
hked either Sophie or me to create a sensation ; of course she 
would have preferred that it should have been her daughter, but 
her daughter's friend was next best. As we went away, I heard 
Madame Rupprecht and Monsieur de la Tourelle reciprocating 
civil speeches with might and main, from which I found out that 
the French gentleman Vas coming to call on us the next day. I 
do not know whether I was more glad or frightened, for I had been 
kept upon stilts of good manners all the evening. But still I was 
flattered when Madame Rupprecht spoke as if she had invited 
him because he had shown pleasure in my society, and even more 
gratified by Sophie's ungrudging delight at the evident interest I 
had excited in so fine and agreeable a gentleman. Yet, with all 
this, they had hard work to keep me from running out of the 
salon the next day, when we heard his voice inquiring at the 
gate on the stairs for Madame Rupprecht. They had made 



268 THE GREY WOMAN. 

me put on my Sunday gown, and they themselves were dressed 
as for a reception. 

When he had gone away, Madame Rupprecht congratulated 
me on the conquest I had made ; for, indeed, he had scarcely 
spoken to any one else, beyond what mere civility required, and 
had almost invited himself to come in the evening to bring some 
new song, which was all the fashion in Paris, he said. Madame 
Rupprecht had been out all the morning, as she told me, to glean 
information about Monsieur de la Tourelle. Hewasapropri^taire, 
had a small chateau on the Vosges mountains ; he owned land 
there, but had a large income from some sources quite indepen- 
dent of this property. Altogether, he was a good match, as she 
emphatically observed. She never seemed to think that I could 
refuse him after this account of his wealth, nor do I beheve she 
would have allowed Sophie a choice, even had he been as old and 
ugly as he was young and handsome. I do not quite know — so 
many events have come to pass since then, and blurred the clear- 
ness of my recollections— if I loved him or not. He was very 
much devoted to me ; he almost frightened me by the excess of 
his demonstrations of love. And he was very charming to every- 
body around me, who all spoke of him as the most fascinating of 
men, and of me as the most fortunate of girls. And yet I never 
felt quite at my ease with him. I was always relieved when his 
visits were over, although I missed his presence when he did not 
come. He prolonged his visit to the friend with whom he was 
staying at Carlsruhe, on purpose to woo me. He loaded me 
with presents, which I was unwilling to take, only Madame 
Rupprecht seemed to consider me an affected prude if I refused 
them. Many of these presents consisted of articles of valuable old 
jewellery, evidently belonging to his family : by accepting these 
I doubled the ties which were formed around me by circumstances 
even more than by my own consent. In those days we did not 
write letters to absent friends as frequently as is done now, and I 
had been unwilhng to name him in the few letters that I wrote 
home. At length, however, I learned from Madame Rupprecht 
that she had written to my father to announce the splendid con- 
quest I had made, and to request his presence at my betrothal. 
I started with astonishment. I had not realised that affairs had 
gone so far as this. But when she asked me, in a stern, offended 
manner, what I had meant by my conduct if I did not intend to 
marry Monsieur de la Tourelle — I had received his visits, his 



THE GREY WOMAN. 269 

presents, all his various advances without showing any unwilling- 
ness or repugnance — (and it was all true ; I had shown no repug- 
nance, though I did not wish to be married to him — at least, not 
so soon) — what could I do but hang my head, and silently consent 
to the rapid enunciation of the only course which now remained 
for me if I would not be esteemed a heartless coquette all the 
rest of my days ? 

There was some difficulty, which I afterwards learnt that my 
sister-in-law had obviated, about my betrothal taking place from 
home. My father, and Fritz especially, were for having me 
return to the mill, and there be betrothed, and thence be married. 
But the Rupprechts and Monsieur de la Tourelle were equally 
urgent on the other side; and Babette was unwilling to have the 
trouble of the commotion at the mill ; and also, I think, a little 
disliked the idea of the contrast of my grander marriage with 
her own. 

So my father and Fritz ^came over to the betrothal. They were 
to stay at an inn in Carlsruhe for a fortnight, at the end of which 
time the marriage was to take place. Monsieur de la Tourelle 
told me he had business at home, which would oblige him to be 
absent during the interval between the two events ; and I was 
very glad of it, for I did not think that he valued my father and 
my brother as I could have wished him to do. He was very 
polite to them ; put on all the soft, grand manner, which he had 
rather dropped with me ; and complimented us all round, 
beginning with my father and Madame Rupprecht, and ending 
with httle Alwina. But he a little scoffed at the old-fashioned 
'church ceremonies which my father insisted on ; and I fancy 
Fritz must have taken some of his compliments as satire, for I saw 
certain signs of manner by which I knew that my future husband, 
for all his civil words, had irritated and annoyed my brother. 
But all the money arrangements were liberal in the extreme, and 
more than satisfied, almost surprised, my father. Even Fritz 
lifted up his eyebrows and whistled. I alone did not care about 
anything. I was bewitched, — in a dream, — a kind of despair. 
I had got into a net through my own timidity and weakness, and 
I did not see how to get out of it. I clung to my own home- 
people that fortnight as I had never done before. Their voices, 
their ways, were all so pleasant and familiar to me, after the con- 
straint in which I had been Hving. I might speak and do as I 
liked without being corrected by Madame Rupprecht, or reproved 



270 THE GREY WOMAN. 

in a delicate, complimentary way by Monsieur de la Tourelle. 
One day I said to my father that I did not want to be married, 
that I would rather go back to the dear old mill; but he seemed 
to feel this speech of mine as dereliction of duty as great as if I 
had committed perjury ; as if, after the ceremony of betrothal, 
no one had any right over me but my future husband. And yet 
he asked me some solemn questions ; but my answers were not 
such as to do me any good. 

" Dost thou know any fault or crime in this man that should 
prevent God's blessing from resting on thy marriage with him? 
Dost thou feel aversion or repugnance to him in any way?" 

And to all this what could I say? I could only stammer out 
that I did not think I loved him enough ; and my poor old 
father saw in this reluctance only the fancy of a silly girl who 
did not know her own mind; but who had now gone too far to 
recede. 

So we were married, in the Court chapel, a privilege which 
Madame Rupprecht had used no end of efforts to obtain for us, 
and which she must have thought was to secure us all possible 
happiness, both at the time and in recollection afterwards. 

We were married ; and after two days spent in festivity at 
Carlsruhe, among all our new fashionable friends there, I bade 
good-bye for ever to my dear old father. I had begged my 
husband to take me by way of Heidelberg to his old castle in 
the Vosges ; but I found an amount of determination, under 
that effeminate appearance and manner, for which I was not 
prepared, and he refused my first request so decidedly that I 
dared not urge it. "Henceforth, Anna," said he, "you will 
move in a different sphere of life ; and though it is possible that 
you may have the power of showing favour to your relations 
from time to time, yet much or familiar intercourse will be 
undesirable, and is what I cannot allow." I felt almost afraid, 
after this formal speech, of asking my father and Fritz to come 
and see me ; but, when the agony of bidding them farewell 
overcame all my prudence, I did beg them to pay me a visit ere 
long. But they shook their heads, and spoke of business at 
home, of different kinds of life, of my being a Frenchwoman 
now. Only my father broke out at last with a blessing, and 
said, "If my child is unhappy — which God forbid — let her 
remember that her father's house is ever open to her." I was 
on the point of crying out, " Oh ! take me back then now, my 



THE GREY WOMAN. 27 1. 

father i oh, my father ! " when I felt, rather than saw, my 
husband present near me. He looked on with a slightly con- 
temptuous air ; and, taking my hand in his, he led me weeping 
away, saying that short farewells were always the best when they 
were inevitable. 

It took us two days to reach his chateau in the Vosges, for the 
roads were bad and the way difficult to ascertain. Nothing could 
be more devoted than he was all the time of the journey. It 
seemed as if he were trying in every way to make up for the 
separation which every hour made me feel the more complete 
between my present and my former hfe. I seemed as if I were 
only now wakening up to a full sense of what marriage was, and 
I dare say I was not a cheerful companion on the tedious journey. 
At length, jealousy of my regret for my father and brother got 
the better of M. de la Tourelle, and he became so much displeased 
with me that I thought my heart would break with the sense of 
desolation. So it was in no cheerful frame of mind that we 
approached Les Rochers, and I thought that perhaps it was 
because I was so unhappy that the place looked so dreary. On 
one side, the chateau looked like a raw new building, hastily run 
up for some immediate purpose, without any growth of trees or 
underwood near it, only the remains of the stone used for build- 
ing, not yet cleared away from the immediate neighbourhood, 
although weeds and lichens had been suffered to grow near and 
over the heaps of rubbish ; on the other, were the great rocks 
from which the place took its name, and rising close against them, 
as if almost a natural formation, was the old castle, whose build- 
ing dated many centuries back. 

It was not large nor grand, but it was strong and picturesque,, 
and I used to wish that we lived in it rather than in the smart, 
half-furnished apartment in the new edifice, which had been 
hastily got ready for my reception. Incongruous as the two parts 
were, they were joined into a whole by means of intricate passages 
and unexpected doors, the exact positions of which I never fully 
understood. M. de la Tourelle led me to a suite of rooms set 
apart for me, and formally installed me in them, as in a domain of 
which I was sovereign. He apologised for the hasty preparation 
which was all he had been able to make for me, but promised, 
before I asked, or even thought of complaining, that they should 
be made as luxurious as heart could wish before many weeks had 
elapsed. But when, in the gloom of an autumnal evening, I 



272 THE GREY WOMAN. 

caught my own face and figure reflected in all the mirrors, which 
showed only a mysterious background in the dim light of the 
many candles which failed to illuminate the great proportions of 
the half-furnished salon, I clung to M. de la Tourelle, and begged 
to be taken to the rooms he had occupied before his marriage, he 
seemed angry with me, although he affected to laugh, and so 
decidedly put aside the notion of my having any other rooms but 
these, that I trembled in silence at the fantastic figures and shapes 
which my imagination called up as peophng the background of 
those gloomy mirrors. There was my boudoir, a little less dreary 
— my bedroom, with its grand and tarnished furniture, which I 
commonly made into my sitting-room, locking up the various doors 
which led into the boudoir, the salon, the passages — all but one 
through which M. de la Tourelle always entered from his own 
apartments in the older part of the castle. But this preference of 
mine for occupying my bedroom annoyed M. de la Tourelle, I am 
sure, though he did not care to express his displeasure. He would 
always allure me back into the salon, which I disliked more and 
more from its complete separation from the rest of the building 
by the long passage into which all the doors of my apartment 
opened. This passage was closed by heavy doors and portieres 
through which I could not hear a sound from the other parts of 
the house, and, of course, the servants could not hear any move- 
ment or cry of mine unless expressly summoned. To a girl brought 
up as I had been in a household where every individual lived all 
day in the sight of every other member of the family, never wanted 
either cheerful words or the sense of silent companionship, this 
grand isolation of mine was very formidable ; and the more so, 
because M. de la Tourelle, as landed proprietor, sportsman, and 
what not, was generally out of doors the greater part of every day, 
and sometimes for two or three days at a time. I had no pride 
to keep me from associating with the domesdcs ; it would have 
been natural to me in many ways to have sought them out for a 
word of sympathy in those dreary days when I was left so entirely 
to myself, had they been like our kindly German servants. But I 
disliked them, one and all ; I could not tell why. Some were civil, 
but there was a familiarity in their civility which repelled me ; 
others were rude, and treated me more as if I were an intruder 
than their master's chosen wife ; and yet of the two sets I liked 
these last the best. 

The principal male servant belonged to this latter class. I was 



THE GREY WOMAN. 273 

very much afraid of him, he had such an air of suspicious surliness 
about him in all he did for me ; and yet M. de la Tourelle spoke 
of him as most valuable and faithful. Indeed, it sometimes struck 
me that Lefebvre ruled his master in some things ; and this I could 
not make out. For, while M. de la Tourelle behaved towards me 
as if I were some precious toy or idol, to be cherished, and fostered, 
and petted, and indulged, I soon found out how little I, or, appa- 
rently, any one else, could bend the terrible will of the man who 
had on first acquaintance appeared to me too effeminate and 
languid to exert his will in the slightest particular. I had learnt 
to'know his face better now ; and to see that some vehement depth 
of feeling, the cause of which I could not fathom, made his grey 
eye ghtter with pale light, and his lips contract, and his delicate 
cheek whiten on certain occasions. But all had been so open and 
above-board at home, that I had no experience to help me to 
unravel any mysteries among those who lived under the same roof. 
I understood that I had made what Madame Rupprecht and her 
set would have called a great marriage, because I lived in a chateau 
with many servants, bound ostensibly to obey me as a mistress. I 
understood that M. de la Tourelle was fond enough of me in his 
way — proud of my beauty, I dare say (for he often enough spoke 
about it to me) — but he was also jealous, and suspicious, and 
uninfluenced by my wishes, unless they tallied with bis own. I 
felt at this time as if I could have been fond of him, too, if he 
would have let me ; but I was timid from my childhood, and 
before long my dread of his displeasure (coming down like thunder 
into the midst of his love, for such slight causes as a hesitation 
in reply, a wrong word, or a sigh for my father), conquered my 
humorous inclination to love one who was so handsome, so accom- 
plished, so indulgent and devoted. But if I could not please him 
when indeed I loved him, you may imagine how often I did wrong 
when I was so much afraid of him as to quietly avoid his company 
for fear of his outbursts of passion. One thing I remember 
noticing, that the more M. de la Tourelle was displeased with me 
the more Lefebvre seemed to chuckle ; and when I was restored 
to favour, sometimes on as sudden an impulse as that which occa- 
sioned my disgrace, Lefebvre would look askance at me with his 
cold, malicious eyes, and once or twice at such times he spoke 
most disrespectfully to M. de la Tourelle. 

I have almost forgotten to say that, in the early days of my life 
at Les Rochers, M. de la Tourelle, in contemptuous indulgent 



274 THE GREY WOMAN. 

pity at my weakness in disliking the dreary grandeur of the 
salon, wrote up to the milliner in Paris from whom my cofbeilie 
de mariage had come, to desire her to look out for me a maid 
of middle age, experienced in the toilette, and with so much 
refinement that she might on occasion serve as companion to me. 



PORTION II. 

A Norman woman, Amante by name, was sent to Les Rochers 
by the Paris milliner, to become my maid. She was tall and 
handsome, though upwards of forty, and somewhat gaunt. 
But, on first seeing her, I liked her ; she was neither rude nor 
famihar in her manners, and had a pleasant look of straightfor- 
wardness about her that I had missed in all the inhabitants of 
the chateau, and had foolishly set down in my own mind as a 
national want. Amante was directed by M. de la Tourelle to 
sit in my boudoir, and to be always within call. He also gave 
her many instructions as to her duties in matters which, perhaps, 
strictly belonged to my department of management. But I was 
young and inexperienced, and thankful to be spared any re- 
sponsibility. 

I dare say it was true what M. de la Tourelle said — before many 
weeks had elapsed — that, for a great lady, a lady of a castle, I 
became sadly too famihar with my Norman waiting-maid. But 
you know that by birth we were not very far apart in rank, 
Amante was the daughter of a Norman farmer, I, of a German 
miller ; and besides that, my life was so lonely ! It almost 
seemed as if I could not please my husband. He had written 
for some one capable of being my companion at times, and now 
he was jealous of my free regard for her — angry because I could 
sometimes laugh at her original tunes and amusing proverbs, 
while when with him I was too much frightened to smile. 

From time to time families from a distance of some leagues 
drove through the bad roads in their heavy carriages to pay us a 
visit, and there was an occasional talk of our going to Paris when 
public affairs should be a little more settled. These little events 
and plans were the only variations in my life for the first twelve 
months, if I except the alternations in M. de la Tourelle's temper, 
his unreasonable anger, and his passionate fondness. 



THE GREY WOMAN. 



•^/> 



Perhaps one of the reasons that made me take pleasure and 
comfort in Amante's society was, that whereas I was afraid of 
everybody (I do not think I was half as much afraid of things as 
of persons), Amante feared no one. She would quietly beard 
Lefebvre, and he respected her all the more for it ; she had a 
knack of putting questions to M. de la Tourelle, which respect- 
fully informed him that she had detected the weak point, but 
forbore to press him too closely upon it out of deference to his 
position as her master. And with all her shrewdness to others, 
she had quite tender ways with me ; all the more so at this time 
because she knew, what I had not yet ventured to tell M. de la 
Tourelle, that by-and-by I might become a mother — that wonder- 
ful object of mysterious interest to single women, who no longer 
hope to enjoy such blessedness themselves. 

It was once more autumn ; late in October. But I was recon- 
ciled to my habitation ; the walls of the new part of the building 
no longer looked bare and desolate ; the deh7'is had been so far 
cleared away by M. de la Tourelle's desire as to make me a little 
flower-garden, in which I tried to cultivate those plants that I 
remembered as growing at home. Amante and I had moved 
the furniture in the rooms, and adjusted it to our liking ; my 
husband had ordered many an article from time to time that he 
thought would give me pleasure, and I was becoming tame to 
my apparent imprisonment in a certain part of the great build- 
ing, the whole of which I had never yet explored. It was 
October, as I say, once more. The days were lovely, though 
short in duration, and M. de la Tourelle had occasion, so he 
said, to go to that distant estate, the superintendence of which 
so frequently took him away from home. He took Lefebvre 
with him, and possibly some more of the lacqueys ; he often 
did. And my spirits rose a little at the thought of his absence ; 
and then the new sensation that he was the father of my unborn 
babe came over me, and I tried to invest him with this fresh 
character. I tried to beheve that it was his passionate love for 
me that made him so jealous and tyrannical, imposing, as he- 
did, restrictions on my very intercourse with my dear father, 
from whom I was so entirely separated, as far as personal inter- 
course was concerned. 

I had, it is true, let myself go into a sorrowful review of all the 
troubles which lay hidden beneath the seeming luxury of my life. 
I knew that no one cared for me except my husband and Amante ;, 



276 THE GREY WOMAN. 

for it was clear enough to see that I, as his wife, and also as a 
fa7 venue, was not popular among the few neighbours who sur- 
rounded us \ and as for the servants, the women were all hard and 
impudent-looking, treating me with a semblance of respect that 
had more of mockery than reality in it ; while the men had a 
lurking kind of fierceness about them, sometimes displayed even 
to M. de la Tourelle, who on his part, it must be confessed, was 
■often severe, even to cruelty, in his management of them. My 
husband loved me, I said to myself, but I said it almost in the 
form of a question. His love was shown fitfully, and more in 
ways calculated to please himself than to please me. I felt that 
for no wish of mine would he deviate one tittle from any pre- 
determined course of action. I had learnt the inflexibility of those 
thin delicate lips ; I knew how anger would turn his fair com- 
plexion to deadly white, and bring the cruel light into his pale 
blue eyes. The love I bore to any one seemed to be a reason for 
his hating them, and so I went on pitying myself one long dreary 
afternoon during that absence of his of which I have spoken, only 
sometimes remembering to check myself in my murmurings by 
thinking of the new unseen link between us, and then crying 
afresh to think how wicked I was. Oh, how well I remember 
that long October evening ! Amante came in from time to time, 
talking away to cheer me — talking about dress and Paris, and I 
hardly know what, but from time to time looking at me keenly 
with her friendly dark eyes, and with serious interest, too, though 
all her words were about frivolity. At length she heaped the fire 
with wood, drew the heavy silken curtains close ; for I had been 
anxious hitherto to keep them open, so that I might see the pale 
moon mounting the skies, as I used to see her — the same moon — 
rise from behind the Kaiser Stuhl at Heidelberg ; but the sight 
made me cry, so Amante shut it out. She dictated to me as a 
nurse does to a child. 

" Now, madame must have the little kitten to keep her com- 
pany," she said, " while I go and ask Marthon for a cup of coffee." 
I remember that speech, and the way it roused me, for I did not 
like Amante to think I wanted amusing by a kitten. It might be 
my petulance, but this speech — such as she might have made to a 
child— annoyed me, and I said that I had reason for my lowness 
of spirits — meaning that they were not of so imaginary a nature 
that I could be diverted from them by the gambols of a kitten. 
So, though I did not choose to tell her all, I told her a part : and 



THE GREY WOMAN. 2/7 

as I spoke, I began to suspect that the good creature knew much 
of what I withheld, and that the Httle speech about the kitten 
was more thoughtfully kind than it had seemed at first. I said 
that it was so long since I had heard from my father ; that he was 
an old man, and so many things might happen — I might never see 
him again — and I so seldom heard from him or my brother. It 
was a more complete and total separation than I had ever antici- 
pated when I married, and something of my home and of my life 
previous to my marriage I told the good Amante ; for I had not 
been brought up as a great lady, and the sympathy of any human 
'being was precious to me. 

Amante listened with interest, and in return told me some of 
the events and sorrows of her own life. Then, remembering 
her purpose, she set out in search of the coffee, which ought to 
have been brought to me an hour before ; but, in my husband's 
absence, my v^ishes were but seldom attended to, and I never 
dared to give orders. 

Presently she returned, bringing the coffee and a large cake. 

"See!" said she, setting it down. "Look at my plunder. 
Madame must eat. Those who eat always laugh. And, 
besides, I have a little news that will please madame." Then 
she told me that lying on a table in the great kitchen was a 
bundle of letters, come by the courier from Strasburg that very 
afternoon : then, fresh from her conversation with me, she had 
hastily untied the string that bound them, but had only just 
traced out one that she thought was from Germany, when a 
servant-man came in, and, with the start he gave her, she 
dropped the letters, which he picked up, swearing at her for 
having untied and disarranged them. She told him that she 
believed there was a letter there for her mistress ; but he only 
swore the more, saying, that if there was it was no business of 
hers, or of his either, for that he had the strictest orders always 
to take all letters that arrived during his master's absence into 
the private sitting-room of the latter — a room into which I had 
never entered, although it opened out of my husband's dressing- 
room. 

I asked Amante if she had not conquered and brought me this 
letter. No, indeed, she replied, it was almost as much as his, 
life was worth to live among such a set of servants : it was only 
a month ago that Jacques had stabbed Valentin for some jesting 
talk. Had I never missed Valentin — that handsome young lad 



278 THE GREY WOMAN. 

who carried up the wood into my salon? Poor fellow ! he lies 
dead and cold now, and they said in the village he had put an 
end to himself, but those of the household knew better. Oh ! I 
need not be afraid ; Jacques was gone no one knew where ; but 
with such people it was not safe to upbraid or insist. Monsieur 
would be at home the next day, and it would not be long to 
wait. 

But I felt as if I could not exist till the next day without the 
letter. It might be to say that my father was ill, dying — he 
might cry for his daughter from his death-bed ! In short, there 
was no end to the thoughts and fancies that haunted me. It 
was of no use for Amante to say that, after all,, she might be mis- 
taken — that she did not read writing well — that she had but a 
glimpse of the address ; I let my coffee cool, my food all became 
distasteful, and I wrung my hands with impatience to get at the 
letter, and have some news of my dear ones at home. All the 
time Amante kept her imperturbable good temper, first reason- 
ing, then scolding. At last she said, as if wearied out, that if I 
would consent to make a good supper, she would see what could 
be done as to our going to monsieur's room in search of the 
letter, after the servants were all gone to bed. We agreed to 
go together when all was still, and look over the letters ; there 
could be no harm in that ; and yet, somehow, we were such 
cowards we dared not do it openly and in the face of the 
household. 

Presently my supper came up— partridges, bread, fruits, and 
cream. How well I remember that supper ! We put the un- 
touched cake away in a sort of buffet, and poured the cold coffee 
out of the window, in order that the servants might not take 
offence at the apparent fancifulness of sending down for food I 
could not eat. I was so anxious for all to be in bed, that I told 
the footman who served that he need not wait to take away the 
plates and dishes, but might go to bed. Long after I thought 
the house was quiet, Amante, in her caution, made me wait. 
It was past eleven before we set out, with cat-like steps and 
veiled hght, along the passages, to go to my husband's room 
and steal my own letter, if it was indeed there ; a fact about 
which Amante had become very uncertain in the progress of 
our discussion. 

To make you understand my story, I must now try to explain 
to you the plan of the chateau. It had been at one time a forti- 



THE GREY WOMAN. 279 

fied place of some strength, perched on the summit of a rock, 
which projected from the side of the mountain. But additions 
had been made to the old building (which must have borne a 
strong resemblance to the castles overhanging the Rhine), and 
these new buildings were placed so as to command a magni- 
ficent view, being on the steepest side of the rock, from which 
the mountain fell away, as it were, leaving the great plain of 
France in full survey. The ground-plan was something of the 
shape_of three sides of an oblong; my apartments in the 
modern edifice occupied the narrow end, and had this grand 
prospect. The front of the castle was old, and ran parallel to 
the road far below. In this were contained the offices and 
public rooms of various descriptions, into which I never pene- 
trated. The back wing (considering the new building, in which 
my apartments were, as the centre) consisted of many rooms, 
of a dark and gloomy character, as the mountain-side shut out 
much of the sun, and heavy pine woods came down within a 
few yards of the windows. Yet on this side — on a projecting 
plateau of the rock — my husband had formed the flower-garden 
of which I have spoken ; for he was a great cultivator of flowers 
in his leisure moments. 

Now my bedroom was the corner room of the new buildings 
on the part next to the mountain. Hence I could have let my- 
self down into the flower-garden by my hands on the window- 
sill on one side, without danger of hurting myself; while the 
windows at right angles with these looked sheer down a descent 
of a hundred feet at least. Going still farther along this wing, 
you came to the old building ; in fact, these two fragments of 
the ancient castle had formerly been attached by some such con- 
necting apartments as my husband had rebuilt. These rooms 
belonged to M. de la Tourelle. His bedroom opened into mine, 
his dressing-room lay beyond ; and that was pretty nearly all I 
knew, for the servants, as well as he himself, had a knack of 
turning me back, under some pretence, if ever they found me 
walking about alone, as I was inclined to do, when first I came, 
from a sort of curiosity to see the whole of the place of which I 
found myself mistress. M. de la Tourelle never encouraged me 
to go out alone, either in a carriage or for a walk, saying always 
that the roads were unsafe in those disturbed times ; indeed, I 
have sometimes fancied since that the flower-garden, to which 
the only access from the castle was through his rooms, was de- 



28o THE GREY WOMAN. 

signed in order to give me exercise and employment under his 
own eye. 

But to return to that night. I knew, as I have said, that M. 
de la Tourelle's private room opened out of his dressing-room, 
and this out of his bedroom, which again opened into mine, the 
corner room. But there were other doors into all these rooms, 
and these doors led into a long gallery, lighted by windows, 
looking into the inner court. I do not remember our consult- 
ing much about it ; we went through my room into my hus- 
band's apartment through the dressing-room, but the door of 
communication into his study was locked, so there was nothing 
for it but to turn back and go by the gallery to the other door. 
I recollect noticing one or two things in these rooms, then seen 
by me for the first time. I remember the sweet perfume that 
hung in the air, the scent bottles of silver that decked his toilet- 
table, and the whole apparatus for bathing and dressing, more 
luxurious even than those which he had provided for me. But 
tiie room itself was less splendid in its proportions than mine. 
In truth, the new buildings ended at the entrance to my hus- 
band's dressing-room. There were deep window recesses in 
walls eight or nine feet thick, and even the partitions between 
the chambers were three feet deep ; but over all these doors or 
windows there fell thick, heavy draperies, so that I should think 
no one could have heard in one room what passed in another. 
We went back into my room, and out into the gallery. We 
had to shade our candle, from a fear that possessed us, I don't 
know why, lest some of the servants in the opposite wing might 
trace our progress towards the part of the castle unused by any 
one except my husband. Somehow, I had always the feeling 
that all the domestics, except Amante, were spies upon me, and 
that I was trammelled in a web of observation and unspoken 
limitation extending over all my actions. 

There was a light in the upper room ; we paused, and Amante 
would have again retreated, but I was chafing under the delays. 
What was the harm of my seeking my father's unopened letter to 
me in my husband's study ? I, generally the coward, now blamed 
Amante for her unusual timidity. But the truth was, she had far 
more reason for suspicion as to the proceedings of that terrible 
household than I had ever known of. I urged her on, I pressed 
on myself ; we came to the door, locked, but with the key in it ; 
we turned it, we entered ; the letters lay on the table, their white 



THE GREY WOMAN. 28 1 

oblongs catching the light in an instant, and revealing themselves 
to my eager eyes, hungering after the words of love from my 
peaceful, distant home. But just as I pressed forward to examine 
the letters, the candle which Amante held, caught in some 
draught, went out, and we were in darkness. Amante pro- 
posed that we should carry the letters back to my salon, col- 
lecting them as well as we could in the dark, and returning 
all but the expected one for me ; but I begged her to return 
to my room, where I kept tinder and flint, and to strike a fresh 
hght ; and so she went, and I remained alone in the room, ot 
which I could only just distinguish the size, and the principal 
articles of furniture : a large table, with a deep, overhanging 
cloth, in the middle, escritoires and other heavy articles against 
the wails; all this I could see as I stood there, my hand on 
the table close by the letters, my face towards the window, 
which, both from the darkness of the wood, growing high up 
the mountain-side, and the faint light of the declining moon, 
seemed only like an oblong of paler, purpler black than the 
shadowy room. How much I remembered from my one in- 
stantaneous glance before the candle went out, how much I 
saw as my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I do not 
know, but even now, in my dreams, comes up that room of 
horror, distinct in its profound shadow. Amante could hardly 
have been gone a minute before I felt an additional gloom 
before the window, and heard soft movements outside — soft, 
but resolute, and continued until the end was accomplished, 
and the window raised. 

In mortal terror of people forcing an entrance at such an 
hour, and in such a manner as to leave no doubt of their pur- 
pose, I would have turned to fly when first I heard the noise, 
only that I feared by any quick motion to catch their attention, 
as I also ran the danger of doing by opening the door, which 
was all but closed, and to whose handlings I was unaccustomed. 
Again, quick as lightning, I bethought me of the hiding-place 
between the locked door to my husband's dressing-room and 
the portiere which covered it ; but I gave that up ; I felt as 
if I could not reach it without screaming or fainting. So I 
sank down softly, and crept under the table, hidden, as I hoped, 
by the great, deep table-cover, with its heavy fringe. I had 
not recovered my swooning senses fully, and was trying to 
reassure myself as to my being in a place of comparative safety. 



282 THE GREY WOMAN. 

for, above all things, I dreaded the betrayal of fainting, and 
struggled hard for such courage as I might attain by deadening 
myself to the danger I was in by inflicting intense pain on 
myself. You have often asked me the reason of that mark on 
my hand ; it was where, in my agony, I bit out a piece of 
flesh with my relentless teeth, thankful for the pain, which 
helped to numb my terror. I say, I was but just concealed 
when I heard the window lifted, and one after another stepped 
over the sill, and stood by me so close, that I could have 
touched their feet. Then they laughed and whispered ; my 
brain swam so that I could not tell the meaning of their words, 
but I heard my husband's laughter among the rest — low, hissing, 
scornful — as he kicked something heavy that they had dragged 
in over the floor, and which lay near me ; so near, that my 
husband's kick, in touching it, touched me too. I don't know 
why — I can't tell how — but some feeling, and not curiosity, 
prompted me to put out my hand, ever so softly, ever so little, 
and feel in the darkness for what lay spurned beside me. I 
stole my groping palm upon the clenched and chilly hand of 
a corpse ! 

Strange to say, this roused me to instant vividness of thought. 
Till this moment I had almost forgotten Amante ; now I planned 
with feverish rapidity how I could give her a warning not to 
return ; or rather, I should say, I tried to plan, for all my pro- 
jects were utterly futile, as I might have seen from the first. 
I could only hope she could hear the voices of those who were 
now busy in trying to kindle a light, swearing awful oaths at 
the mislaid articles which would have enabled them to strike 
fire. I heard her step outside coming nearer and nearer ; I 
saw from my hiding-place the line of light beneath the door 
more and more distinctly ; close to it her footstep paused ; the 
men inside — at the time I thought they had been only two, 
but I found out afterwards there were three— paused in their 
endeavours, and were quite still, as breathless as myself, I 
suppose. Then she slowly pushed the door open with gentle 
motion, to save her flickering candle from being again ex- 
tinguished. For a moment all was still. Then I heard my hus- 
band say, as he advanced towards her (he wore riding boots, the 
shape of which I knew well, as I could see them in the light) — 

"Amante, may I ask what brings you here into my private 
room?" 



THE GREY WOMAN. 285 

He stood between her and the dead body of a man, from 
which ghastly heap I shrank away as it ahiiost touched me, so 
close were we all together. I could not tell whether she saw it 
or not ; I could give her no warning, nor make any dumb 
utterance of signs to bid her what to say — if, indeed, I knew 
myself what would be best for her to say. 

Her voice was quite changed when she spoke ; quite hoarse, 
and very low ; yet it was steady enough as she said, what was the 
truth, that she had come to look for a letter which she believed 
had arrived for me from Germany. Good, brave Amante ! Not 
a word about me. M. de la Tourelle answered with a grim 
blasphemy and a fearful threat. He would have no one prying 
into his premises ; madame should have her letters, if there were 
any, when he chose to give them to her, if, indeed, he thought it 
well to give them to her at all. As for Amante, this was her first 
warning, but it was also her last ; and, taking the candle out of 
her hand, he turned her out of the room, his companions discreetly 
making a screen, so as to throw the corpse into deep shadow, 
I heard the key turn in the door after her — if I had ever had any 
thought of escape it was gone now. I only hoped that whatever 
was to befall me might soon be over, for the tension of nerve was 
growing more than I could bear. The instant she could be sup- 
posed to be out of hearing, two voices began speaking in the 
most angry terms to my husband, upbraiding him for not having 
detained her, gagged her — nay, one was for killing her, saying he 
had seen her eye fall on the face of the dead man, whom he now 
kicked in his passion. Though the form of their speech was as if 
they were speaking to equals, yet in their tone there was some- 
thing of fear. I am sure my husband was their superior, or 
captain, or somewhat. He replied to them almost as if he were 
scoffing at them, saying it was such an expenditure of labour 
having to do with fools ; that, ten to one, the woman was only 
teUing the simple truth, and that she was frightened enough by 
discovering her master in his room to be thankful to escape and 
return to her mistress, to whom he could easily explain on the 
morrow how he happened to return in the dead of night. But 
his companions fell to cursing me, and saying that since M. de la 
Tourelle had been married he was fit for nothing but to dress him- 
self fine and scent himself with perfume ; that, as for me, they 
could have got him twenty girls prettier, and with far more spirij 
in them. He quietly answered that I suited him, and that was 



284 THE GREY WOMAN. 

enough. All this time they were doing something— I could not 
see what — to the corpse ; sometimes they were too busy rifling 
the dead body, I believe, to talk ; again they let it fall with a 
heavy, resistless thud, and took to quarrelling. They taunted 
my husband with angry vehemence, enraged at his scoffing and 
scornful replies, his mocking laughter. Yes, holding up his poor 
dead victim, the better to strip him of whatever he wore that was 
valuable, I heard my husband laugh just as he had done when 
exchanging repartees in the little salon of the Rupprechts at 
Carlsruhe. I hated and dreaded him from that moment. At 
length, as if to make an end of the subject, he said, with cool 
determination in his voice — 

" Now, my good friends, what is the use of all this talking, 
when you know in your hearts that, if I suspected my wife of 
knowing more than I chose of my affairs, she would not outlive 
the day ? Remember Victorine. Because she merely joked about 
my affairs in an imprudent manner, and rejected my advice to 
keep a prudent tongue — to see what she hked, but ask nothing 
and say nothing — she has gone a long journey — longer than to 
Paris." 

' ' But this one is different to her ; we knew all that Madame 
Victorine knew, she was such a chatterbox ; but this one may find 
out a vast deal, and never breathe a word about it, she is so sly. 
Some fine day we may have the country raised, and the gendarmes 
down upon us from Strasburg, and all owing to your pretty doll, 
with her cunning ways of coming over you." 

I think this roused M. de la Tourelle a little from his con- 
temptuous indifference, for he ground an oath through his teeth, 
and said, ' ' Feel ! this dagger is sharp, Henri. If my wife breathes 
a word, and I am such a fool as not to have stopped her mourh 
effectually before she can bring down gendarmes upon us, just let 
that good steel find its way to my heart. Let her guess but one 
tittle, let her have but one slight suspicion that I am not a ' grand 
propri^taire,' much less imagine that I am a chief of chauffeurs, 
and she follows Victorine on the long journey beyond Paris that 
very day." 

" She'll outwit you yet ; or I never judged women well. Those 
-still silent ones are the devil. She'll be off during some of your 
absences, having picked out some secret that will break us all on 
the wheel." 

"Bah!" said his voice; and then in a minute he added, 



THE GREY WOMAN. 285 

" Let her go if she will. But, where she goes, I will follow ; so 
don't cry before you're hurt." 

By this time, they had nearly stripped the body ; and the con- 
versation turned out what they should do with it. I learnt that 
the dead man was the Sieur de Poissy, a neighbouring gentleman, 
whom I had often heard of as hunting with my husband. I had 
never seen him, but they spoke as if he had come upon them while 
they were robbing some Cologne merchant, torturing him after 
the cruel practice of the chauffeurs, by roasting the feet of their 
victims in order to compel them to reveal any hidden circum- 
stances connected with their wealth, of which the chauffeurs 
afterwards made use ; and this Sieur de Poissy coming down 
upon them, and recognising M. de la Tourelle, they had killed 
him, and brought him thither after nightfall. I heard him whom- 
I called my husband laugh his little light laugh as he spoke of the 
way in which the dead body had been strapped before one of the 
riders, in such a way that it appeared to any passer-by as if, in- 
truth, the murderer were tenderly supporting some sick person. 
He repeated some mocking reply of double meaning, which he 
himself had given to some one who made inquiry. He enjoyed 
the play upon words, softly applauding his own wit. And all 
the time the poor helpless outstretched arms of the dead lay close 
to his dainty boot ! Then another stooped (my heart stopped 
beating), and picked up a letter lying on the ground — a letter 
that had dropped out of M. de Poissy's pocket — a letter from 
his wife, full of tender words of endearment and pretty babblings 
of love. This was read aloud, with coarse ribald comments 
on every sentence, each trying to outdo the previous speaker. 
When they came to some pretty words about a sweet Maurice, 
their little child away with its mother on some visit, they 
laughed at M. de la Tourelle, and told him that he would be 
hearing such woman's drivelhng some day. Up to that 
moment, I think, I had only feared him, but his unnatural, 
half-ferocious reply made me hate even more than I dreaded 
him. But now they grew weary of their savage merriment ; 
the jewels and watch had been appraised, the money and 
papers examined ; and apparently there was some necessity 
for the body being interred quietly and before daybreak. They 
had not dared to leave him where he was slain, for fear lest 
people should come and recognise him, and raise the hue and 
cry upon them. For they all along spoke as if it was their 



2E6 THE GREY WOMAN. 

constant endeavour to keep the immediate neighbourhood of 
Les Rochers in the most orderly and tranquil condition, so as 
never to give cause for visits from the gendarmes. They 
disputed a little as to whether they should mal^e their way into 
the castle larder through the gallery, and satisfy their hunger 
before tlie hasty interment, or afterwards. I listened with 
eager feverish interest as soon as this meaning of their speeches 
reached my hot and troubled brain, for at the time the words 
they uttered seemed only to stamp themselves with terrible 
force on my memory, so that I could hardly keep from repeat- 
ing them aloud like a dull, miserable, unconscious echo ; but 
my brain was numb to the sense of what they said, unless I 
myself were named, and then, I suppose, some instinct of self- 
preservation stirred within me, and quickened my sense. And 
how I strained my ears, and nerved my hands and limbs, 
beginning to twitch with convulsive movements, which I feared 
might betray me ! I gathered every word they spoke, not 
knowing which proposal to wish for, but feeling that whatever 
was finally decided upon, my only chance of escape was draw- 
ing near. I once feared lest my husband should go to his 
bedroom before I had had that one chance, in which case he 
would most likely have perceived my absence. He said that 
his hands were soiled (I shuddered, for it might be with life* 
blood), and he would go and cleanse them ; but some bitter 
jest turned his purpose, and he left the room with the other 
two — left it by the gallery door. I^eft me alone in the dark 
with the stiffening corpse ! 

Now, now was my time, if ever ; and yet I could not move. 
It was not my cramped and stiffened joints that crippled me, 
it was the sensation of that dead man's close presence. I 
almost fancied — I almost fancy still — I heard the arm nearest 
to me move ; lift itself up, as if once more imploring, and fall 
in dead despair. At that fancy — if fancy it were — I screamed 
aloud in mad terror, and the sound of my own strange voice 
broke the spell. I drew myself to the side of the table farthest 
from the corpse, with as much slow caution as if I really could 
have feared the clutch of that poor dead arm, powerless for 
evermore. I softly raised myself up, and stood sick and trem- 
bling, holding by the table, too dizzy to know what to do next. 
I nearly fainted, when a low voice spoke— when Amante, from 
ihe outside of the door, whispered, " Madame ! " The faithful 



I 



THE GREY WOMAN. 287 

creature had been on the watch, had heard my scream, and 
having seen the three ruffians troop along the gallery, down the 
stairs, and across the court to the offices in the other wing of 
the castle, she had stolen to the door of the room in which I 
was. The sound of her voice gave me strength ; I walked 
straight towards it, as one benighted on a dreary moor, suddenly 
perceiving the small steady light which tells of human dwellings^ 
takes heart, and steers straight onward. Where I was, where 
that voice was, I knew not ; but go to it I must, or die. The 
door once opened — I know not by which of us — I fell upon her 
neck, grasping her tight, till my hands ached with the tension 
of their hold. Yet she never uttered a word. Only she took 
me up in her vigorous arms, and bore me to my room, and laid 
me on my bed. I do not know more ; as soon as I was placed 
there I lost sense ; I came to myself with a horrible dread lest 
my husband was by me, with a belief that he was in the room, 
in hiding, wai,ting to hear my first words, watching for the least 
sign of the terrible knowledge I possessed to murder me. I 
dared not breathe quicker, I measured and timed each heavy 
inspiration ; I did not speak, nor move, nor even open my eyes, 
for long after I was in my full, my miserable senses. I heard 
some one treading softly about the room, as if with a purpose, 
not as if for curiosity, or merely to beguile the time ; some one 
passed in and out of the salon ; and I still lay quiet, feeling as 
if death were inevitable, but wisliing that the agony of death 
were past. Again faintness stole over me ; but just as I was 
sinking into the horrible feeling of nothingness, I heard Amante's 
voice close to me, saying — 

" Drink this, madame, and let us be gone. All is ready." 
I let her put her arm under my head and raise me, and pour 
something down my throat. All the time she kept talking in a 
quiet, measured voice, unhke her own, so dry and authoritative ; 
she told me that a suit of her clothes lay ready for me, that 
she herself was as much disguised as the circumstances per- 
mitted her to be, that what provisions I had left from my 
supper were stowed away in her pockets ; and so she went on, 
dwelling on little details of the most commonplace description, 
but never alluding for an instant to the fearful cause why flight 
was necessary. I made no inquiry as to how she knew, or 
what she knew. I never asked her either then or afterwards ; 
1 could not bear it — we kept our dreadful secret close. But I 



288 THE GREY WOMAN. 

suppose she must have been in the dressing-room adjoining", 
and heard all. 

In fact, I dared not speak even to her, as if there were 
anything beyond the most common event in Hfe in our pre- 
paring thus to leave the house of blood by stealth in the dead 
of night. She gave me directions — short condensed directions, 
without reasons — ^just as you do to a child ; and like a child 
I obeyed her. She went often to the door and listened ; and 
often, too, she went to the window, and looked anxiously out. 
For me, I saw nothing but her, and I dared not let my eyes 
wander from her for a minute ; and I heard nothing in the 
deep midnight silence but her soft movements, and the heavy 
beating of my own heart. At last she took my hand, and led 
me in the dark, through the salon, once more into the terrible 
gallery, where across the black darkness the windows admitted 
pale sheeted ghosts of light upon the floor. Clinging to her 
I went ; unquestioning — for she was human sympathy to me, 
after the isolation of my unspeakable terror. On we went, 
turning to the left instead of to the right, past my suite of 
sitting-rooms, where the gilding was red with blood, into that 
unknown wing of the castle that fronted the main road, lying 
parallel far below. She guided me along the basement passages 
to which we had now descended, until we came to a little open 
door, through which the air blew chill and cold, bringing for 
the first time a sensation of life to me. The door led into a 
kind of cellar, through which we groped our way to an opening 
like a window, but which, instead of being glazed, was only 
fenced with iron bars, two of which were loose, as Amante 
evidently knew, for she took them out with the ease of one who 
had performed the action often before, and then helped me to 
follow her out into the free, open air. 

We stole round the end of the building, and on turning the 
corner — she first — I felt her hold on me tighten for an instant, 
and the next step I, too, heard distant voices, and the blows of a 
spade upon the heavy soil, for the night was very warm and still. 

We had not spoken a word ; we did not speak now. Touch 
was safer and as expressive. She turned down towards the 
high road ; I followed. I did not know the path ; we stumbled 
again and again, and I was much bruised ; so doubtless was 
she ; but bodily pain did me good. At last, we were on the 
plainer path of the high road. 



THE GREY WOMAN. 289 

I had such faith in her that I did not venture to speak, even 
when she paused, as wondering to which hand she should turn. 
But now, for the first time, she spoke — 

' ' Which way did you come when he brought you here 
firstly" 

I pointed — I could not speak. 

We turned in the opposite direction ; still going along the 
high road. In about an hour, we struck up to the mountain- 
side, scrambling far up before we even dared to rest ; far up 
and away again before day had fully dawned. Then we looked 
about for some place of rest and concealment ; and now we 
dared to speak in whispers. Amante told me that she had 
locked the door of communication between his bedroom and 
mine, and, as in a dream, I was aware that she had also locked 
and brought away the key of the door between the latter and 
the salon. 

" He will have been too busy this night to think much about 
you — he will suppose you are asleep — I shall be the first to be 
missed ; but they will only just now be discovering our loss." 

I remember those last words of hers made me pray to go on ; 
I felt as if we were losing precious time in thinking either of 
rest or concealment ; but she hardly replied to me, so busy was 
she in seeking out some hiding-place. At length, giving it up 
in despair, we proceeded onwards a httle way ; the mountain- 
side sloped downwards rapidly, and in the full morning light 
we saw ourselves in a narrow valley, made by a stream which 
forced its way along it. About a mile lower down there rose 
the pale blue smoke of a village, a mill-wheel was lashing up 
the water close at hand, though out of sight. Keeping under 
the cover of every sheltering tree or bush, we worked our way 
down past the mill, down to a one-arched bridge which doubt- 
less formed part of the road between the village and the mill. 

"This will do," said she ; and we crept under the space, and 
climbing a little way up the rough stone-work, we seated our- 
selves on a projecting ledge, and crouched in the deep damp 
shadow. Amante sat a little above me, and made me laymy 
head on her lap. Then she fed me, and took some food herself; 
and opening out her great dark cloak, she covered up every 
light-coloured speck about us ; and thus we sat, shivering and 
shuddering, yet feeling a kind of rest through it all, simply from 
the fact that motion was no longer imperative, and that during 



290 THE GREY WOMAN. 

the daylight our only chance of safety was to be still. But the 
damp shadow in which we were sitting was blighting, from the 
circumstance of the sunlight never penetrating there ; and I 
dreaded lest, before night and the time for exertion again came 
on, I should feel illness creeping all over me. To add to our 
discomfort, it had rained the whole day long, and the- stream, 
fed by a thousand little mountain brooklets, began to swell 
into a torrent, rushing over the stones with a perpetual and 
dizzying noise. 

Every now and then I was wakened from the painful doze 
into which I continually fell, by a sound of horses' feet over our 
head : sometimes lumbering heavily as if dragging a burden, 
sometimes rattling and galloping, and with the sharper cry of 
men's voices coming cutting through the roar of the waters. 
At length, day fell. We had to drop into the stream, which 
came above our knees as we waded to the bank. There we 
stood, stiff and shivering. Even Amante's courage seemed to 
fail. 

"We must pass this night in shelter, somehow," said she. 
For indeed the rain was coming down pitilessly. I said nothing. 
I thought that surely the end must be death in some shape ; 
and I only hoped that to death might not be added the terror 
of the cruelty of men. In a minute or so she had resolved 
on her course of action. We went up the stream to the mill. 
The familiar sounds, the scent of the wheat, the flower whiten- 
ing the walls — all reminded me of home, and it seemed to me 
as if I must struggle out of this nightmare and waken, and find 
myself once more a happy girl by the Neckar-side. They were 
long in unbarring the door at which Amante had knocked ; at 
length, an old feeble voice inquired who was there, and what 
was sought ? Amante answered shelter from the storm for two 
wornen ; but the old woman replied, with suspicious hesitation, 
that she was sure it was a man who was asking for shelter, and 
that she could not let us in. But at length she satisfied herself, 
and unbarred the heavy door, and admitted us. She was not 
an unkindly woman ; but her thoughts all travelled in one circle, 
and that was, that her master, the miller, had told her on no 
account to let any man into the place during his absence, and 
that she did not know if he would not think two women as bad ; 
and yet that as we were not men, no one could say she had dis- 
obeyed him, for it was a shame to let a dog be out such a night 



THE GREY WOMAN. 29 1 

as this. Amante, with ready wit, told her to let no one know 
that we had taken shelter there that night, and that then her 
master could not blame her ; and while she was thus enjoining 
secrecy as the wisest course, with a view to far other people 
than the miller, she was hastily helping me take off my wet 
clothes, and spreading them, as well as the brown mantle that 
had covered us both, before the great stove which warmed the 
room with the effectual heat that the old woman's failing vitality 
required. All this time the poor creature was discussing with 
herself as to whether she had disobeyed orders, in a kind of 
garrulous way that made me fear much for her capability of re- 
taining anything secret if she was questioned. By-and-by, she 
wandered away to an unnecessary revelation of her master's 
whereabouts ; gone to help in the search for his landlord, the 
Sieur de Poissy, who lived at the chateau just above, and who 
had not returned from his chase the day before ; so the intendant 
imagined he might have met with some accident, and had sum- 
moned the neighbours to beat the forest and the hill-side. She 
told us much besides, giving us to understand that she would 
fain meet with a place as housekeeper where there were more 
servants and less to do, as her life here was very lonely and 
dull, especially since her master's son had gone away — gone 
to the wars. She then took her supper, which was evidently 
apportioned out to her with a sparing hand, as, even if the idea 
had come into her head, she had not enough to offer us any. 
Fortunately, warmth was all that we required, and that, thanks 
to Amante's care, was returning to our chilled bodies. After 
supper, the old woman grew drowsy ; but she seemed uncom- 
fortable at the idea of going to sleep and leaving us still in the 
house. Indeed, she gave us pretty broad hints as to the 
propriety of our going once more out into the bleak and stormy 
night ; but we begged to be allowed to stay under shelter of 
some kind ; and, at last, a bright idea came over her, and she 
bade us mount by a ladder to a kind of loft, which went half 
over the lofty mill-kitchen in which we were sitting. We 
obeyed her — what else could we do? — and found ourselves in 
a spacious floor, without any safeguard or wall, boarding, or 
railing, to keep us from falling over into the kitchen, in case we 
went too near the edge. It was, in fact, the store-room or 
garret for the household. There was bedding piled up, boxes 
and chests, mill sacks, the winter store of apples and nuts^ 



292 THE GREY WOMAN. 

bundles of old clothes, broken furniture, and many other things. 
No sooner were we up there, than the old woman dragged the 
ladder, by which we had ascended, away with a chuckle, as if 
she was now secure that we could do no mischief, and sat herself 
down again once more, to doze and await her master's return. 
We pulled out some bedding, and gladly laid ourselves down 
in our dried clothes and in some warmth, hoping to have the 
sleep we so much needed to refresh us and prepare us for the 
next day. But I could not sleep, and I was aware, from her 
breathing, that Amante was equally wakeful. We could both 
see through the crevices between the boards that formed the 
flooring into the kitchen below, very partially lighted by the 
common lamp that hung against the wall near the stove on the 
opposite side to that on which we were. 



PORTION III. 

Far on in the night there were voices outside reached us in 
our hiding-place ; an angry knocking at the door, and we saw 
through the chinks the old woman rouse herself up to go and 
open it for her master, who came in, evidently half drunk. To 
my sick horror, he was followed by I.efebvre, apparently as 
sober and wily as ever. They were talking together as they 
came in, disputing about something; but the miller stopped 
the conversation to swear at the old woman for having fallen 
asleep, and, with tipsy anger, and even with blows, drove the 
poor old creature out of the kitchen to bed. Then he and 
Lefebvre went on talking — about the Sieur de Poissy's dis- 
appearance. It seemed that Lefebvre had been out all day, 
along with other of my husband's men, ostensibly assisting in 
the search ; in all probability trying to blind the Sieur de Poissy's 
followers by putting them on a wrong scent, and also, I fancied, 
from one or two of Lefebvre's sly questions, combining the 
hidden purpose of discovering us. 

Although the miller was tenant and vassal to the Sieur de 
Poissy, he seemed to me to be much more in league with the 
people of M. de la Tourelle. He was evidently aware, in part, 
of the life which Lefebvre and the others led ; although, again, 



THE GREY WOMAN. 293 

I do not suppose that he knew or imagined one-half of their 
crimes ; and also, I think, he was seriously interested in dis- 
covering the fate of his master, little suspecting Lefebvre of 
murder or violence. He kept talking himself, and letting out 
all sorts of thoughts and opinions ; watched by the keen eyes 
of Lefebvre gleaming out below his shaggy eyebrows. It was 
evidently not the cue of the latter to let out that his master's 
wife had escaped from that vile and terrible den ; but though 
he never breathed a word relating to us, not the less was I 
certain he was thirsting for our blood, and lying in wait for us 
at every turn of events. Presently he got up and took his leave ; 
and the miller bolted him out, and stumbled off to bed. Then 
we fell asleep, and slept sound and long. 

The next morning, when I awoke, I saw Amante, half raised, 
resting on one hand, and eagerly gazing, with straining eyes, into 
the kitchen below. I looked too, and both heard and saw the 
miller and two of his men eagerly and loudly talking about the 
old woman, who had not appeared as usual to make the fire in 
the stove, and prepare her master's breakfast, and who now, late 
on in the morning, had been found dead in her bed ; whether 
from the effect of her master's blows the night before, or from 
natural causes, who can tell? The miller's conscience upbraided 
him a little, I should say, for he was eagerly declaring his value 
for his housekeeper, and repeating how often she had spoken of 
the happy life she led with him. The men might have had their 
doubts, but they did not wish to offend the miller, and all agreed 
that the necessary steps should be taken for a speedy funeral. 
And so they went out, leaving us in our loft, but so much alone, 
that, for the first time almost, we ventured to speak freely, though 
still in a hushed voice, pausing to listen continually. Amante 
took a more cheerful view of the whole occurrence than I did. She 
said that, had tlie old woman lived, we should have had to depart 
that morning, and that this quiet departure would have been the 
best thing we could have had to hope for, as, in all probability, 
the housekeeper would have told her master of us and of our 
resting-place, and this fact would, sooner or later, have been 
brought to the knowledge of those from whom we most desired to 
keep it concealed ; but that now we had time to rest, and a shelter 
to rest in, during the first hot pursuit, which we knew to a fatal 
certainty was being carried on. The remnants of our food, and 
the stored-up fruit, would supply us with provision ; the only 



294 THE GREY WOMAN. 

thing to be feared was, that something might be required from 
the loft, and the miller or some one else mount up in search of 
it. But even then, with a little arrangement of boxes and chests, 
one part might be so kept in shadow that we might yet escape 
observation. All this comforted me a little ; but, I asked, how- 
were we .ever to escape? The ladder was taken away, which 
was our only means of descent. But Amante replied that she 
could make a sufficient ladder of the rope lying coiled among 
other things, to drop us down the ten feet or so — with the advan- 
tage of its being portable, so that we might carry it away, and 
thus avoid all betrayal of the fact that any one had ever been 
hidden in the loft. 

During the two days that intervened before we did escape, 
Amante made good use of her time. She looked into every box 
and chest during the man's absence at his mill ; and finding 
in one box an old suit of man's clothes, which had probably 
belonged to the miller's absent son, she put them on to see if 
they would fit her ; and, when she found that they did, she cut 
her own hair to the shortness of a man's, made me clip her 
black eyebrows as close as though they had been shaved, and 
by cutting up old corks into pieces such as would go into her 
cheeks, she altered both the shape of her face and her voice to 
a degree which I should not have believed possible. 

All this time I lay like one stunned ; my body resting, and 
renewing its strength, but I myself in an almost idiotic state — 
else surely I could not have taken the stupid interest which I 
remember I did in all Amante's energetic preparations for dis- 
guise. I absolutely recollect once the feehng of a smile coming 
over my stiff face as some new exercise of her cleverness proved 
a success. 

But towards the second day, she required me, too, to exert 
myself ; and then all my heavy despair returned. I let her dye 
my fair hair and complexion with the decaying shells of the 
stored-up walnuts, I let her blacken my teeth, and even volun- 
tarily broke a front tooth, the better to effect my disguise. But 
through it all I had no hope of evading my terrible husband. 
The third night the funeral was over, the drinking ended, 
the guests gone ; the miller put to bed by his men, being too 
drunk to help himself. They stopped a little while in the 
kitchen talking and laughing about the new housekeeper likely 
to come ; and they, too, went off shutting, but not locking 



THE GREY WOMAN. 29S 

the door. Everything favoured us. Amante had tried her 
ladder on one of the two previous nights, and could, by a 
dexterous throw from beneath, unfasten it from the hook to 
which it was fixed, when it had served its office ; she made up 
a bundle of worthless old clothes in order that we might the 
better preserve our characters of a travelling pedlar and his 
wife ; she stuffed a hump on her back, she thickened my figure, 
she left her own clothes deep down beneath a heap of others 
in the chest from which she had taken the man's dress which 
she wore ; and with a few francs in her pocket — the sole 
money we had either of us had about us when we escaped — we 
let ourselves down the ladder, unhooked it, and passed into 
the cold darkness of night again. 

We had discussed the route which it would be well for us to 
take while we lay perdues in our loft. Amante had told me 
then that her reason for inquiring, when we first left Les 
Rochers, by which way I had first been brought to it, was to 
avoid the pursuit which she was sure would first be made in 
the direction of Germany ; but that now she thought we might 
return to that district of country where my German fashion of 
speaking French would excite least observation. I thought 
that Amante herself had something peculiar in her accent, 
which I had heard M. de la Tourelle sneer at as Norman 
patois ; but I said not a word beyond agreeing to her proposal 
that we should bend our steps towards Germany. Once there 
we should, I thought, be safe. Alas ! I forgot the unruly time 
-that was overspreading all Europe, overturning all law, and all 
the protection which law gives. 

How we wandered— not daring to ask our way — how we lived, 
how we struggled through many a danger and still more terrors 
of danger, I shall not tell you now. I will only relate two of 
our adventures before we reached Frankfort. The first, although 
fatal to an innocent lady, was yet, I believe, the cause of my 
safety ; the second I shall tell you, that you may understand 
why I did not return to my former home, as I had hoped to do 
when we lay in the miller's loft, and I first became capable of 
groping after an idea of what my future life might be. I cannot 
tell you how much in these doubtings and wanderings I became 
attached to Amante. I have sometimes feared since, lest 1 
cared for her only because she was so necessary to my own 
safety ; but, no ! it was not so ; or not so only or principally. 



296 THE .GREY WOMAN. 

She said once that she was flying for her own hfe as well as for 
mine ; but we dared not speak much on our danger, or on the 
horrors that had gone before. We planned a little what was 
to be our future course ; but even for that we did not look 
forward long ; how could we, when every day we scarcely knew 
if we should see the sun go down? For Amante knew or 
conjectured far more than I did of the atrocity of the gang to 
which M. de la Tourelle belonged ; and every now and then, 
just as we seemed to be sinking into the calm of security, we 
fell upon traces of a pursuit after us in all directions. Once, 
I remember — we must have been nearly three weeks wearily 
walking through unfrequented ways, day after day, not daring 
to make inquiry as to our whereabouts, nor yet to seem purpose- 
less in our wanderings — we came to a kind of lonely roadside 
farrier's and blacksmith's. I was so tired that Amante declared 
that, come what might, we would stay there all night ; and 
accordingly she entered the house, and boldly announced herself 
as a travelling tailor, ready to do any odd jobs of work that 
might be required, for a night's lodging and food for herself 
and wife. She had adopted this plan once or twice before, and 
with good success ; for her father had been a tailor in Rouen, 
and as a girl she had often helped him with his work, and knew 
the tailor's slang and habits, down to the particular whistle and 
cry which in France tells so much to those of a trade. At this 
blacksmith's, as at most other solitary houses far away from a 
town, there was not only a store of men's clothes laid by as 
wanting mending when the housewife could afford time, but 
there was a natural craving after news from a distance, such 
news as a wandering tailor is bound to furnish. The early 
November afternoon was closing into evening, as we sat down, 
she cross-legged on the great table in the blacksmith's kitchen, 
drawn close to the window, I close behind her, sewing at 
another part of the same garment, and from time to time well 
scolded by my seeming husband. All at once she turned round 
to speak to me. It was only one word, "Courage!" I had 
seen nothing ; I sat out of the light ; but I turned sick for an 
instant, and then I braced myself up into a strange strength of 
endurance to go through I knew not what. 

The blacksmith's forge was in a shed beside the house, and 
fronting the road. I heard the hammers stop plying their 
continual rhythmical beat. She had seen why they ceased. A 



THE GREY WOMAN. 297 

rider had come up to the forge and dismounted, leading his 
horse in to be re-shod. The broad red hght of the forge-fire 
had revealed the face of the rider to Amante, and she appre- 
hended the consequence that really ensued. 

The rider, after some words with the blacksmith, was ushered 
in by him into the house-place where we sat. 

*' Here, good wife, a cup of wine and some galette for this 
gentleman." 

"Anything, anything, madam, that I can eat and drink in 
my hand while my horse is being shod. I am in haste, and 
must get on to Forbach to-night." 

The blacksmith's wife lighted her lamp ; Amante had asked 
her for it five minutes before. How thankful we were that she 
had not more speedily complied with our request ! As it was,, 
w-e sat in dusk shadow, pretending to stitch away, but scarcely 
able to see. The lamp was placed on the stove, near which my 
husband, for it was he, stood and warmed himself. By-and-by 
he turned round, and looked all over the room, taking us in with 
about the same degree of interest as the inanimate furniture. 
Amante, cross-legged, fronting him, stooped over her work, 
whistling softly all the while. He turned again to the stove, 
impatiently rubbing his hands. He had finished his wine and 
galette, and wanted to be off. 

" I am in haste, my good woman. Ask thy husband to 
get on more quickly. I will pay him double if he makes 
haste." 

The woman went out to do his bidding ; and he once more 
turned round to face us. Amante went on to the second part of 
the tune. He took it up, whistled a second for an instant or so, 
and then the blacksmith's wife re-entering, he moved towards 
her, as if to receive her answer the more speedily. 

" One moment, monsieur — only one moment. There was a 
Txail out of the off-foreshoe, which my husband is replacing ; it 
would delay monsieur again if that shoe also came off." 

"Madame is right," said he, "but my haste is urgent. If 
madame knew my reasons, she would pardon my impatience. 
Once a happy husband, now a deserted and betrayed man, I 
pursue a wife on whom I lavished all my love, but who has 
abused my confidence, and fled from my house, doubtless to* 
some paramour ; carrying off with her all the jewels and money 
on which she could lay her hands. It is possible madame 

K 2 



298 THE GREY WOMAN. 

may have heard or seen something of her ; she was accom- 
panied in her flight by a base, profligate woman from Paris, 
whom I, unhappy man, had myself engaged for my wife's 
waiting-maid, little dreaming what corruption I was bringing 
into my house ! " 

"Is it possible?" said the good woman, throwing up her 
hands. 

Amante went on whistling a little lower, out of respect to the 
conversation. 

" However, I am tracing the wicked fugitives ; I am on their 
track " (and the handsome, effeminate face looked as ferocious 
as any demon's). "They will not escape me ; but every minute 
is a minute of misery to me, till I meet my wife. Madame has 
sympathy, has she not?" 

He drew his face into a hard unnatural smile, and then both 
went out to the forge, as if once more to hasten the blacksmith 
over his work. 

Amante stopped her whistling for one instant. 

"Go on as you are, without change of an eyelid even; in a 
few minutes he will be gone, and it will be over ! " 

It was a necessary caution, for I was on the point of giving 
way, and throwing myself weakly upon her neck. We went on, 
she whistling and stitching, I making semblance to sew. And 
it was well we did so ; for almost directly he came back for his 
whip, which he had laid down and forgotten ; and again I felt 
one of those sharp, quick-scanning glances, sent all round the 
room, and taking in all. 

Then we heard him ride away ; and then — it had been long 
too dark to see well — I dropped my work, and gave way to my 
trembling and shuddering. The blacksmith's wife returned. 
She was a good creature. Amante told her I was cold and 
weary, and she insisted on my stopping my work, and going to 
sit near the stove ; hastening, at the same time, her preparations 
for supper, which, in honour of us, and of monsieur's Hberal 
payment, was to be a little less frugal than ordinary. It was 
well for me that she made me taste a little of the cider-soup she 
was preparing, or I could not have held up, in spite of Amante's 
warning look, and the remembrance of her frequent exhortations 
to act resolutely up to the characters we had assumed, whatever 
tefell. To cover my agitation, Amante stopped her whistling, 
and began to talk ; and, by the time the blacksmith came in, 



THE GREY WOMAN. 299 

she and the good woman of the house were in full flow. He 
began at once upon the handsome gentleman, who had paid 
him so well ; all his sympathy was with him, and both he and 
his wife only wished he might overtake his wicked wife, and 
punish her as she deserved. And then the conversation took a 
turn, not uncommon to those whose lives are quiet and mono- 
tonous ; every one seemed to vie with each other in telHng about 
some horror ; and the savage and mysterious band of robbers 
called the Chauffeurs, who infested all the roads leading to the 
Rhine, with Schinderhannes at their head, furnished many a 
tale which made the very marrow of my bones run cold, and 
quenched even Amante's power of talking. Her eyes grew large 
and wild, her cheeks blanched, and for once she sought by her 
looks help from me. The new call upon me roused me. I rose 
and said, with their permission, my husband and I would seek 
our bed, for that we had travelled far and were early risers. I 
added that we would get up betimes, and finish our piece of 
work. The blacksmith said we should be early birds if we rose 
before him ; and the good wife seconded my proposal with 
kindly bustle. One other such story as those they had been 
relating, and I do believe Amante would have fainted. 

As it was, a night's rest set her up ; we arose and finished our 
work betimes, and shared the plentiful breakfast of the family. 
Then we had to set forth again ; only knowing that to Forbach 
we must not go, yet believing, as was indeed the case, that 
P'orbach lay between us and that Germany to which we were 
directing our course. Two days more we wandered on, making 
a round, I suspect, and returning upon the road to Forbach, a 
league or two nearer to that town than the blacksmith's house. 
But as we never made inquiries I hardly knew where we were, 
when we came one night to a small town, with a good large 
rambling inn in the very centre of the principal street. We had 
begun to feel as if there were more safety in towns than in the 
loneliness of the country. As we had parted with a ring of 
mine not many days before to a travelling jeweller, who was too 
glad to purchase it far below its real value to make many in- 
quiries as to how it came into the possession of a poor working 
tailor, such as Amante seemed to be, we resolved to stay at this 
inn all night, and gather such particulars and information as we 
could by which to direct our onward course. 

We took our supper in the darkest corner of the salle-d^ 



300 THE GREY WOMAN. 

manger, having previously bargained for a small bedroon:i 
across the court, and over the stables. We needed food sorely ; 
but we hurried on our meal from dread of any one entering that 
public room who might recognise us. Just in the middle of our 
meal, the public diligence drove lumbering up under the porte 
coch^re, and disgorged its passengers. Most of them turned 
into the room where we sat, cowering and fearful, for the door 
was opposite to the porter's lodge, and both opened on to the 
wide-covered entrance from the street. Among the passengers 
came in a young fair-haired lady, attended by an elderly French 
maid. The poor young creature tossed her head and shrank 
away from the common room, full of evil smells and promiscuous 
company, and demanded, in German French, to be taken to seme 
private apartment. We heard that she and her maid had come 
in the coup^, and, probably from pride, poor young lady ! she 
had avoided all association with her fellow-passengers, thereby 
exciting their dislike and ridicule. All these little pieces of 
hearsay had a significance to us afterwards, though, at the time, 
the only remark made that bore upon the future was Amante's 
whisper to me that the young lady's hair was exactly the colour of 
mine, which she had cut off and burnt in the stove in the miller's 
kitchen in one of her descents from our hiding-place in the loft. 
As soon as we could, we struck round in the shadow, leaving 
the boisterous and merry fellow-passengers to their supper. We 
crossed the court, borrowed a lantern from the ostler, and 
scrambled up the rude steps to our chamber above the stable. 
There was no door into it ; the entrance was the hole into 
which the ladder fitted. The window looked into the court. 
We were tired and soon fell asleep. I was wakened by a noise 
in the stable below. One instant of listening, and I wakened 
Amante, placing my hand on her mouth, to prevent any ex- 
clamation in her half-roused state. We heard my husband 
speaking about his horse to the ostler. It was his voice. I am. 
sure of it. Amante said so too. We durst not move to rise 
and satisfy ourselves. For five minutes or so he went on giving 
directions. Then he left the stable, and, softly stealing to our 
window, we saw him cross the court and re-enter the inn. We 
consulted as to what we should do. We feared to excite remark 
or suspicion by descending and leaving our chamber, or else 
immediate escape was our strongest idea. Then the ostler left 
the stable, locking the door on the outside. 



THE GREY WOMAN. 30I 

" We must try and drop through the window — if indeed it is 
well togo at all," said Amante. 

With reflection came wisdom. We should excite suspicion 
by leaving without paying our bill. We were on foot, and 
might easily be pursued. So we sat on our bed's edge, talking 
and shivering, while from across the court the laughter rang 
merrily, and the company slowly dispersed one by one, their 
lights flitting past the windows as they went upstairs and settled 
each one to his rest. 

We crept into our bed, holding each other tight, and listen- 
ing to every sound, as if we thought we were tracked, and might 
meet our death at any moment. In the dead of night, just at 
the profound stillness preceding the turn into another day, we 
heard a soft, cautious step crossing the yard. The key into 
the stable was turned — some one came into the stable — we felt 
rather than heard him there. A horse started a little, and 
made a restless movement with his feet, then whinnied re- 
cognition. He who had entered made two or three low sounds 
to the animal, and then led him into the court. Amante sprang 
to the window with the noiseless activity of a cat. She looked 
out, but dared not speak a word. We heard the great door 
into the street open— a pause for mounting, and the horse's 
footsteps were lost in distance. 

Then Amante came back to me, " It was he ! he is gone ! " 
said she, and once more we lay down, trembling and shaking. 

This time we fell sound asleep. We slept long and late. 
We were wakened by many hurrying feet, and many confused 
voices ; all the w^orld seemed awake and astir. We rose and 
dressed ourselves, and coming down we looked around among 
the crowd collected in the courtyard, in order to assure our- 
selves he was not there before we left the shelter of the stable. 

The instant we were seen, two or three people rushed to us. 

" Have you heard? — Do you know ? — That poor young lady 
— oh, come and see ! " And so we were hurried, almost in 
spite of ourselves, across the court and up the great open stairs 
of the main building of the inn, into a bedchamber where lay 
the beautiful young German lady, so full of graceful pride the 
night before, now white and still in death. By her stood the 
French maid, crying and gesticulating. 

"Oh, Madame ! if you had but suffered me to stay with you ! 
Oh ! the baron, what will he say?' and so she went on. Her 



302 THE GREY WOMAN. 

state had but just been discovered ; it had been supposed that 
she was fatigued, and was sleeping late, until a few minutes 
before. The surgeon of the town had been sent for, and the 
landlord of the inn was trying vainly to enforce order until he 
came, and, from time to time, drinking little cups of brandy, 
and offering them to the guests, who were all assembled there, 
pretty much as the servants were doing in the courtyard. 

At last the surgeon came. All fell back, and hung on the 
words that were to fall from his lips. 

"See!" said the landlord. "This lady came last night by 
the diligence with her maid. Doubtless, a great lady, for she 
must have a private sitting-room " 

" She was Madame the Baroness de Roeder," said the French 
maid. 

— " And was difficult to please in the matter of supper, and a 
sleeping-room. She went to bed well, though fatigued. Her 
maid left her " 

" I begged to be allowed to sleep in her room, as we were in 
a strange inn, of the character of which we knew nothing ; but 
she would not let me, my mistress was such a great lady." 

— "And slept with my servants," continued the landlord. 
" This morning we thought madame was still slumbering ; but 
when eight, nine, ten, and near eleven o'clock came, I bade her 
maid use my pass-key, and enter her room " 

" The door was not locked, only closed. And here she was 
found — dead, is she not, monsieur? — with her face down on her 
pillow, and her beautiful hair all scattered wild; she would 
never let me tie it up, saying it made her head ache. Such 
hair ! " said the waiting-maid, lifting up a long golden tress, 
and letting it fall again. 

I remembered Amante's words the night before, and crept 
close up to her. 

Meanwhile, the doctor was examining the body underneath 
the bedclothes, which the landlord, until now, had not allowed 
to be disarranged. The surgeon drew out his hand, all bathed 
and stained with blood ; and holding up a short sharp knife, 
with a piece of paper fastened round it. 

"Here has been foul play," he said. "The deceased lady 
has been murdered. This dagger was aimed straight at her 
heart." Then putting on his spectacles, he read the writing on 
the bloody paper, dimmed and horribly obscured as it was : — 



THE GREY WOMAN. 303 

NUMERO Un. 

Ainsi les Chauffeurs se vengent. 

"Let us go!" said I to Amante. "Oh, let us leave this 
horrible place ! " 

"Wait a little," said she. "Only a few minutes more. It 
will be better." 

Immediately the voices of all proclaimed their suspicions of 
the cavalier who had arrived last the night before. He had, 
they said, made so many inquiries about the young lady whose 
supercilious conduct all in the salle-d-mange?" had been dis- 
cussing on his entrance. They were talking about her as 
we left the room ; he must have come in directly afterwards, 
and not until he had learnt all about her had he spoken of 
the business which necessitated his departure at dawn of day, 
and made his arrangements with both landlord and ostler 
for the possession of the keys of the stable and porte cochere. 
In short, there was no doubt as to the murderer, even before 
the arrival of the legal functionary who had been sent for 
by the surgeon ; but the word on the paper chilled every one 
with terror. Les Chauffeurs, who were they? No one knew ; 
some of the gang might even then be in the room overhearing, 
and noting down fresh objects for vengeance. In Germany, 
I had heard little of this terrible gang, and I had paid no 
greater heed to the stories related once or twice about them 
in Carlsruhe than one does to tales about ogres. But here, 
in their very haunts, I learnt the full amount of the terror 
they inspired. No one would be legally responsible for any 
evidence criminating the murderer. The public prosecutor 
shrank from the duties of his office. What do I say ? Neither 
Amante nor I, knowing far more of the actual guilt of the 
man who had killed that poor sleeping young lady, durst 
breathe a word. We appeared to be wholly ignorant of 
everything: we, who might have told so much. But how 
could we? we were broken down with terrific anxiety and 
fatigue, with the knowledge that we, above all, were doomed 
victims ; and that the blood, heavily dripping from the bed- 
clothes on to the floor, was dripping thus out of the poor dead 
body because, when hving, she had been mistaken for me. 

At length Amante went up to the landlord, and asked permis- 
sion to leave his inn, doing all openly and humbly, so as to 



304 THE GREY WOMAN. 

excite neither ill-will nor suspicion. Indeed, suspicion was 
otherwise directed, and he willingly gave us leave to depart. A 
few days afterwards we were across the Rhine, in Germany, 
making our way towards Frankfort, but still keeping our dis- 
guises, and Amante still working at her trade. 

On the way we met a young man, a wandering journeyman 
from Heidelberg. I knew him, although I did not choose 
that he should know me. I asked him, as carelessly as I 
could, how the old miller was now? He told me he was 
dead. This realisation of the worst apprehensions caused 
by his long silence shocked me inexpressibly. It seemed as 
though every prop gave way from under me. I had been 
talking to Amante only that very day of the safety and comfort 
of the home that awaited her in my father's house ; of the 
gratitude which the old man would feel towards her ; and how 
there, in that peaceful dwelling, far away from the terrible 
land of France, she should find ease and security for all the 
rest of her hfe. All this I thought I had to promise, and even 
yet more had I locked for, for myself. I looked to the unbur- 
dening of my heart and conscience by telling all I knew to my 
best and wisest friend. I looked to his love as a sure guidance 
as well as a comforting stay, and, behold, he has gone away 
from me for ever ! 

I had left the room hastily on hearing of this sad news from 
the Heidelberger. Presently, Amante followed. 

" Poor madame," said she, consoling me to the best of her 
abihty. And then she told me by degrees what more she had 
learned respecting my home, about which she knew almost as 
much as I did, from my frequent talks on the subject both 
at Les Rochers and on the dreary, doleful road we had come 
along. She had continued the conversation after I left, by 
asking about my brother and his wife. Of course, they lived 
on at the mill, but the man said (with what truth I know 
not, but I believed it firmly at the time) that Babette had 
completely got the upper hand of my brother, who only saw 
through her eyes and heard with her ears. That there had 
been much Heidelberg gossip of late days about her sudden 
intimacy with a grand French gentleman who had appeared 
at the mill — a relation, by marriage — married, in fact, to the 
miller's sister, who, by all accounts, had behaved abominably 
and ungratefully. But that was no reason for Babette's extreme 



THE GREY WOMAN. 305 

and sudden intimacy with him, going about everywhere with 
the French gentleman ; and since he left (as the Heidelberger 
said he knew for a fact) corresponding with him constantly. 
Yet her husband saw no harm in it all, seemingly ; though, 
to be sure, he was so out of spirits, what with his father's death 
and the news of his sister's infamy, that he hardly knew how to 
hold up his head. 

"Now," said Amante, "all this proves that M. de la Tourelle 
has suspected that you would go back to the nest in which 
you were reared, and that he has been there, and found that 
you have not yet returned ; but probably he still imagines that 
you will do so, and has accordingly engaged your sister-in-law 
as a kind of informant. Madame has said that her sister-in-law 
bore her no extreme good-will ; and the defamatory story he 
has got the start of us in spreading, will not tend to increase 
the favour in which your sister-in-law holds you. No doubt 
the assassin was retracing his steps when we met him near 
Forbach, and having heard of the poor German lady, with 
her French maid, and her pretty blonde complexion, he followed 
her. If madame will still be guided by me — and, my child, 
I beg of you still to trust me," said Amante, breaking out of 
her respectful formality into the way of talking more natural 
to those who had shared and escaped from common dangers 
— more natural, too, where the speaker was conscious of a 
power of protection which the other did not possess — ' ' we 
will go on to Frankfort, and lose ourselves, for a time at least, 
in the numbers of people who throng a great town : and you 
have told me that Frankfort is a great town. We will still be 
husband and wife ; we will take a small lodging, and you shall 
housekeep and live indoors. I, as the rougher and the more 
alert, will continue my father's trade, and seek work at the 
tailors' shops." 

I could think of no better plan, so we followed this out. In 
a back street at Frankfort we found two furnished rooms to Jet 
on a sixth storey. The one we entered had no light from day ; 
a dingy lamp swung perpetually from the ceiling, and from that, 
or from the open door leading into the bedroom beyond, came 
our only light. The bedroom was more cheerful, but very 
small. Such as it was, it almost exceeded our possible means. 
The money from the sale of my ring was almost exhausted, and 
Amante was a stranger in the place, speaking only French, 



3o6 THE GREY WOMAN. 

moreover, and the good Germans were hating the French people 
right heartily. However, we succeeded better than our hopes, 
and even laid by a little against the time of my confinement. 
I never stirred abroad, and saw no one, and Amante's want 
of knowledge of German kept her in a state of comparative 
isolation. 

At length my child was born — my poor worse than fatherless 
child. It was a girl, as I had prayed for. I had feared lest a 
boy might have something of the tiger nature of its father, but 
a girl seemed all my own. And yet not all my own, for the 
faithful Amante's delight and glory in the babe almost exceeded 
mine ; in outward show it certainly did. 

We had not been able to afford any attendance beyond what a 
neighbouring sage-femme could give, and she came frequently, 
bringing in with her a little store of gossip, and wonderful tales 
culled out of her own experience, every time. One day she 
began to tell me about a great lady in whose service her 
daughter had lived as sculhon, or some such thing. Such a 
beautiful lady ! with such a handsome husband. But grief 
comes to the palace as well as to the garret, and why or 
wherefore no one knew, but somehow the Baron de Roeder 
must have incurred the vengeance of the terrible Chauffeurs ; 
for not many months ago, as madame was going to see her 
relations in Alsace, she was stabbed dead as she lay in bed at 
some hotel on the road. Had I not seen it in the Gazette ? 
Had I not heard ? Why, she had been told that as far off as 
I^yons there were placards offering a heavy reward on the part 
of the Baron de Roeder for information respecting the murderer 
of his wife. But no one could help him, for all who could 
bear evidence were in such terror of the Chauffeurs ; there 
were hundreds of them, she had been told, rich and poor, great 
gentlemen and peasants, all leagued together by most frightful 
oaths to hunt to the death any one who bore witness against 
them ; so that even they who survived the tortures to which the 
Chauffeurs subjected many of the people whom they plundered, 
dared not to recognise them again, would not dare, even did 
they see them at the bar of a court of justice ; for, if one were 
condemned, were there not hundreds sworn to avenge his 
death? 

I told all this to Amante, and we began to fear that if M. de 
la Tourelle, or Lefebvre, or any of the gang at Les Rochers, 



THE GREY WOMAN. 307 

had seen these placards, they would know that the poor lady 
stabbed by the former was the Baroness de Roeder, and that 
they would set forth again in search of me. 

This fresh apprehension told on my health and impeded my 
recovery. We had so little money we could not call in a physi- 
cian, at least not one in established practice. But Amante 
found out a young doctor, for whom indeed she had sometimes 
worked ; and offering to pay him in kind, she brought him to 
see me, her sick wife. He was very gentle and thoughtful, 
though, like ourselves, very poor. But he gave much time and 
consideration to the case, saying once to Amante that he saw 
my constitution had experienced some severe shock from which 
it was probable that my nerves would never entirely recover. 
By-and-by I shall name this doctor, and then you will know, 
better than I can describe, his character. 

I grew strong in time — stronger, at least. I was able to work 
a little at home, and to sun myself and my baby at the garret- 
window in the roof. It was all the air I dared to take. I con- 
stantly wore the disguise I had first set out with ; as constantly 
had I renewed the disfiguring dye which changed my hair and 
complexion. But the perpetual state of terror in which I had 
been during the whole months succeeding my escape from Les 
Rochers made me loathe the idea of ever again walking in the 
open daylight, exposed to the sight and recognition of every 
passer-by. In vain Amante reasoned— in vain the doctor urged. 
Docile in every other thing, in this I was obstinate. I would 
not stir out. One day Amante returned from her work, full of 
news — some of it good, some such as to cause us apprehension. 
The good news was this ; the master for whom she worked as 
journeyman was going to send her with some others to a 
great house at the other side of Frankfort, where there were 
to be private theatricals, and where many new dresses and 
much alteration of old ones would be required. The tailors 
employed were all to stay at this house until the day of 
representation was over, as it was at some distance from the 
town, and no one could tell when their work would be ended. 
But the pay was to be proportionately good. 

The other thing she had to say was this : she had that day 
met the travelling jeweller to whom she and I had sold my ring. 
It was rather a peculiar one, given to me by my husband ; we 
had felt at the time that it might be the means of tracing us, but 



3o8 THE GREY WOMAN. 

we were penniless and starving, and what else could we do? 
She had seen that this Frenchman had recognised her at the 
same instant that she did him, and she thought at the same 
time that there was a gleam of more than common intelligence 
-on his face as he did so. This idea had been confirmed by his 
following her for some way on the other side of the street ; but 
she had evaded him with her better knowledge of the town, and 
the increasing darkness of the night. Still it was well that she was 
going to such a distance from our dwelling on the next day ; and 
she had brought me in a stock of provisions, begging me to keep 
within doors, with a strange kind of fearful obHvion of the fact 
that I had never set foot beyond the threshold of the house since 
I had first entered it — scarce ever ventured down the stairs. But, 
although my poor, my dear, very faithful Amante was like one 
possessed that last night, she spoke continually of the dead, which 
is a bad sign for the living. She kissed you — yes ! it was you, 
my daughter, my darling, whom I bore beneath my bosom away 
from the fearful castle of your father — I call him so for the first 
time, I must call him so once again before I have done — Amante 
kissed you, sweet baby, blessed little comforter, as if she never 
could leave off. And then she went away, alive. 

Two days, three days passed away. That third evening I 
was sitting within my bolted doors — you asleep on your pillow 
by my side — when a step came up the stair, and I knew it 
must be for me ; for ours were the topmost rooms. Some one 
knocked ; I held my very breath. But some one spoke, and I 
knew it was the good Doctor Voss. Then I crept to the door, 
and answered. 

"Are you alone? " asked I. 

" Yes," said he, in a still lower voice. *' Let me in." I let 
him in, and he was as alert as I in bolting and barring the 
door. Then he came and whispered to me his doleful tale. 
He had come from the hospital in the opposite quarter of the 
town, the hospital which he visited ; he should have been with 
me sooner, but he had feared lest he should be watched. He had 
come from Amante's deathbed. Her fears of the jeweller were 
too well founded. She had left the house where she was em- 
ployed that morning, to transact some errand connected with 
her work in the town ; she must have been followed, and 
dogged on her way back through solitary wood-paths, for 
some of the wood-rangers belonging to the great house had 



THE GREY WOMAN. 309 

found her lying there, stabbed to death, but not dead ; with 
the poniard again plunged through the fatal writing, once 
more; but this time with the word "un" underlined, so as tO' 
show that the assassin was aware of his previous mistake : — 

Numero Un. 
Ainsi les Chauffeurs se vengent. 

They had carried her to the house, and given her restoratives 
till she had recovered the feeble use of her speech. But, oh, 
faithful, dear friend and sister ! even then she remembered me, 
and refused to tell (what no one else among her fellow-workmen 
knew) where she lived or with whom. Life was ebbing away 
fast, and they had no resource but to carry her to the nearest 
hospital, where, of course, the fact of her sex was made known. 
Fortunately both for her and for me, the doctor in attendance 
was the very Doctor Voss whom we already knew. To him, 
while awaiting her confessor, she told enough to enable him to- 
understand the position in which I was left ; before the priest 
had heard half her tale, Amante was dead. 

Doctor Voss told me he had made all sorts of ditotws, and 
waited thus, late at night, for fear of being watched and 
followed. But I do not think he was. At any rate, as I 
afterwards learnt from him, the Baron Roeder, on hearing of 
the similitude of this murder with that of his wife in every 
particular, made such a search after the assassins, that, al- 
though they were not discovered, they were compelled to take 
to flight for the time. 

I can hardly tell you now by what arguments Dr. Voss, at 
first merely my benefactor, sparing me a portion of his small 
modicum, at length persuaded me to become his wife. His 
wife he called it, I called it ; for we went through the religious 
ceremony too much slighted at the time, and as we were both 
Lutherans, and M. de la Tourelle had pretended to be of the 
reformed religion, a divorce from the latter would have been 
easily procurable by German law, both ecclesiastical and legale 
could we have summoned so fearful a man into any court. 

The good doctor took me and my child by stealth to his 
modest dwelling ; and there I lived in the same deep retire- 
ment, never seeing the full light of day, although when the dye 
had once passed away from my face my husband did not wislt 



3IO THE GREY WOMAN. 

me to renew it. There was no need ; my yellow hair was grey, 
my complexion was ashen-coloured, no creature could have 
recognised the fresh-coloured, bright-haired young woman of 
eighteen months before. The few people whom I saw knew 
me only as Madame Voss ; a widow much older than himself, 
whom Dr. Voss had secretly married. They called me the 
Grey Woman. 

He made me give you his surname. Till now you have 
known no other father — while he lived you needed no father's 
love. Once only, only once more, did the old terror come 
upon me. For some reason, which I forget, I broke through 
ray usual custom, and went to the window of my room for 
some purpose, either to shut or to open it. Looking out into 
the street for an instant, I was fascinated by the sight of M, 
de la Tourelle, gay, young, elegant as ever, walking along on 
the opposite side of the street. The noise I had made with the 
window caused him to look up ; he saw me, an old grey woman, 
and he did not recognise me ! Yet it was not three years since 
we had parted, and his eyes were keen and dreadful, like those 
of the lynx. 

I told M. Voss, on his return home, and he tried to cheer me, 
but the shock of seeing M. de la Tourelle had been too terrible 
for me. I was ill for long months afterwards. 

Once again I saw him. Dead. He and Lefebvre were at last 
caught ; hunted down by the Baron de Roeder in some of their 
crimes. Dr. Voss had heard of their arrest ; their condemnation, 
their death ; but he never said a word to me, until one day he 
bade me show him that I loved him by my obedience and my 
trust. He took me a long carriage-journey, where to I know 
not, for we never spoke of that day again ; I was led through a 
prison, into a closed courtyard, where, decently draped in the 
last robes of death, concealing the marks of decapitation, lay 
M. de la Tourelle, and two or three others, whom I had known 
at Les Rochers. 

After that conviction Dr. Voss tried to persuade me to return 
to a more natural mode of life, and to go out more. But 
although I sometimes complied with his wish, yet the old terror 
was ever strong upon me, and he, seeing what an effort it was, 
gave up urging me at last. 

You know all the rest. How we both mourned bitterly the 
loss of that dear husband o'ld father— for such I will call him 



THE GREY WOMAN. 3II 

ever — and as such you must consider him, my child, after this 
one revelation is over. 

Why has it been made? you ask. For this reason, my 
child. The lover, whom you have only known as M. Lebrun, 
a French artist, told me but yesterday his real name, dropped 
because the bloodthirsty Republicans might consider it as too 
aristocratic. It is Maurice de Poissy. 



5> 



THE 

HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 



I WAS born at Sawley, where the shadow of Pendle Hill 
falls at sunrise. I suppose Sawley sprang up into a 
village in the time of the monks, who had an abbey there. 
Many of the cottages are strange old places ; others, again, 
are built of the abbey stones, mixed up with the shale from 
the neighbouring quarries ; and you may see many a quaint 
bit of carving worked into the walls, or forming the lintels of 
the doors. There is a row of houses, built still more recently, 
where one Mr. Peel came to live for the sake of the water- 
power, and gave the place a fillip into something like life — 
though a different kind of life, as I take it, from the grand, 
slow ways folks had when the monks were about. 

Now it was — six o'clock, ring the bell, throng to the factory ; 
sharp home at twelve ; and even at night, when work was 
done, we hardly knew how to walk slowly, we had been so 
bustled all day long. I can't recollect the time when I did 
not go to the factory. My father used to drag me there 
when I was quite a little fellow, in order to wind reels for 
him. I never remember my mother. I should have been a 
better man than I have been, if I had only had a notion of 
the sound of her voice, or the look on her face. 

My father and I lodged in the house of a man who also 
worked in the factory. We were sadly thronged in Sawley, 
so many people came from different parts of the country to 
earn a livelihood at the new work ; and it was some time 
before the row of cottages I have spoken of could be built. 
While they were building, my father was turned out of his 
lodgings for drinking and being disorderly, and he and I 
slept in the brick-kiln ; that is to say, when we did sleep o' 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 313 

nights ; but, ofien and often, we went poaching ; and many 
a hare and pheasant have I rolled up in clay, and roasted in 
the embers of the kiln. Then, as followed to reason, I was 
drowsy next day over my work ; but father had no mercy on 
me for sleeping, for all he knew the cause of it, but kicked 
me where I lay, a heavy lump on the factory floor, and cursed 
and swore at me till I got up for very fear, and to my winding 
again. But, when his back was turned, I paid him off with 
heavier curses than he had given me, and longed to be a 
man, that I might be revenged on him. The words I then 
spoke I would not now dare to repeat ; and, worse than hating 
words, a hating heart went with them. I forget the time 
when I did not know how to hate. When I first came to 
read, and learnt about Ishmael, I thought I must be of his 
doomed race, for my hand was against every man, and every 
man's against me. But I was seventeen or more before I cared 
for my book enough to learn to read. 

After the row of cottages was finished, father took one, and 
set up for himself, in letting lodgings. I can't say much for 
the furnishing ; but there was plenty of straw, and we kept up 
^ood fires ; and there is a set of people who value warmth 
above everything. The worst lot about the place lodged with 
us. We used to have a supper in the middle of the night ; 
there was game enough, or if there was not game, there was 
poultry to be had for the stealing. By day, we all made a 
show of working in the factory. By night, we feasted and 
drank. 

Now this web of my life was black enough, and coarse 
enough ; but by-and-by, a little golden, filmy thread began to 
be woven in — the dawn of God's mercy was at hand. 

One blowy October morning, as I sauntered lazily along to 
the mill, I came to the little wooden bridge over a brook 
that falls into the Bribble. On the plank there stood a child, 
balancing the pitcher on her head, with which she had been 
to fetch water. She was so light on her feet that, had it not 
been for the weight of the pitcher, I almost believe the wind 
would have taken her up, and wafted her away as it carries 
off a blow-ball in seed-time ; her blue cotton dress was blown 
before her, as if she were spreading her wings for a flight ; 
she turned her face round, as if to ask me for something, but 
when she saw who it was, she hesitated, for I had a bad name 



314 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

in the village, and I doubt not she had been warned against 
me. But her heart was too innocent to be distrustful ; so she 
said to me, timidly — 

"Please, John Middleton, will you carry me this heavy jug 
just over the bridge?" 

It was the very first time I had ever been spoken to gently. 
I was ordered here and there by my father and his rough com- 
panions ; I was abused, and cursed by them if I failed in doing 
what they wished ; if I succeeded, there came no expression 
of thanks or gratitude. I was informed of facts necessary for 
me to know. But the gentle words of request or entreaty were 
aforetime unknown to me, and now their tones fell on my ear 
soft and sweet as a distant peal of bells. I wished that I knew 
how to speak properly in reply ; but though we were of the 
same standing as regarded worldly circumstances, there was 
some mighty difference between us, which made me unable 
to speak in her language of soft words and modest entreaty. 
There was nothing for me but to take up the pitcher in a 
kind of gruff, shy silence, and carry it over the bridge, as 
she had asked me. When I gave it her back again, she 
thanked me and tripped away, leaving me, wordless, gazing 
after her hke an awkward lout as I was. I knew well enough 
who she was. She was grandchild to Eleanor Hadfield, an 
aged woman, who was reputed as a witch by my father and 
his set, for no other reason, that I can make out, than her 
scorn, dignity, and fearlessness of rancour. It was true we 
often met her in the grey dawn of the morning, when we 
returned from poaching, and my father used to curse her, 
under his breath, for a witch, such as were burnt long ago 
on Pendle Hill top ; but I had heard that Eleanor was a 
skilful sick nurse, and ever ready to give her services to those 
who were ill ; and I believe that she had been sitting up 
through the night (the night that we had been spending 
under the wild heavens, in deeds as wild) with those who 
were appointed to die. Nelly was her orphan granddaughter 
— her httle handmaiden, her treasure, her one ewe lamb. 
Many and many a day have I watched by the brook-side, 
hoping that some happy gust of wind, coming with oppor- 
tune bluster down the hollow of the dale, might make me 
necessary once more to her. I longed to hear her speak to 
me again. I said the words she had used to myself, trying 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 315 

to catch her tone ; but the chance never came again. I do 
not know that she ever knew how I watched for her there. 
I found out that she went - to school, and nothing would 
serve me but that I must go too. My father scoffed at me ; 
I did not care. I knew nought of what reading was, 
nor that it was likely that I should be laughed at ; I, a 
great hulking lad of seventeen or upwards, for going to learn 
my A, B, C, in the midst of a crowd of little ones. I stood 
just this way in my mind. Nelly was at school ; it was the 
best place for seeing her, and hearing her voice again. There- 
fore I would go too. My father talked, and swore, and 
threatened, but I stood to it. He said I should leave school, 
weary of it in a month. I swore a deeper oath than I like 
to remember, that I would stay a year, and come out a 
reader and a writer. My father hated the notion of folks 
learning to read, and said it took all the spirit out of them : 
besides, he thought he had a right to every penny of my 
wages, and though, when he was in good humour, he might 
have given me many a jug of ale, he grudged my twopence 
a week for schooUng. However, to school I went. It was 
a different place to what I had thought it before I went 
inside. The girls sat on one side, and the boys on the other ; 
so I was not near Nelly. She, too, was in the first class ; 
I was put with the little toddling things that could hardly 
run alone. The master sat in the middle, and kept pretty 
strict watch over us. But I could see Nelly, and hear her 
read her chapter ; and even when- it was one with a long 
list of hard names, such as the master was very fond of 
giving her, to show how well she could hit them off without 
speUing, I thought I had never heard a prettier music. Now 
and then she read other things. I did not know what they 
were, true or false ; but I listened because she read ; and, 
by-and-by, I began to wonder. I remember the first word 
I ever spoke to her was to ask her (as we were coming 
out of school) who was the Father of whom she had been 
reading, for when she said the words *'Our Father," her 
voice dropped into a soft, holy kind of low sound, which 
struck me more than any loud reading, it seemed so loving 
and tender. When I asked her this, she looked at me with 
her great blue wondering eyes, at first shocked ; and then, 
as it were, melted down into pity and sorrow, she said in 



3l6 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

the same way, below her breath, in which she read the words, 
" Our Father," — 

" Don't you know? It is God." 

"God?" 

" Yes ; the God that grandmother tells me about." 

"Tell me what she says, will you?" So we sat down on 
the hedge-bank, she a httle above me, while I looked up 
into her face, and she told me all the holy texts her grand- 
mother had taught her, as explaining all that could be ex- 
plained of the Almighty. I listened in silence, for indeed 
I was overwhelmed with astonishment. Her knowledge was 
principally rote-knowledge; she was too young for much 
more ; but we, in Lancashire, speak a rough kind of Bible 
language, and the texts seemed very clear to me. I rose 
up, dazed and overpowered. I was going away in silence, 
when I bethought me of my manners, and turned back, and 
said "Thank you," for the first time I ever remember saying 
it in my life. That was a great day for me, in more ways 
than one. 

I was always one who could keep very steady to an object 
when once I had set it before me. My object was to know 
Nelly. I was conscious of nothing more. But it made me 
regardless of all other things. The master might scold, the 
httle ones might laugh ; I bore it all without giving it a second 
thought. I kept to my year, and came out a reader and 
writer ; more, however, to stand well in Nelly's good opinion, 
than because of my oath. About this time, my father com- 
mitted some bad, cruel deed, and had to fly the country. 
I was glad he went ; for I had never loved or cared for 
him, and wanted to shake myself clear of his set. But it 
was no easy matter. Honest folk stood aloof; only bad 
men held out their arms to me with a welcome. Even Nelly 
seemed to have a mixture of fear now with her kind ways 
towards me. I was the son of John Middleton, who, if he 
were caught, would be hung at Lancaster Castle. I thought 
she looked at me sometimes with a sort of sorrowful horror. 
Others were not forbearing enough to keep their expression 
of feehng confined to looks. The son of the overlooker at 
the mill never ceased twitting me with my father's crime ; he 
now brought up his poaching against him, though I knew 
very well how many a good supper he himself had made 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 317 

on game which had been given him to make him and his 
father wink at late hours in the morning. And how were such 
as my father to come honestly by game ? 

This lad, Dick Jackson, was the bane of my life. He was 
a year or two older than I was, and had much power over 
the men who worked at the mill, as he could report to his 
father what he chose. I could not always hold my peace 
when he "threaped" me with my father's sins, but gave it 
him back sometimes in a storm of passion. It did me no 
good ; only threw me farther from the company of better 
men, who looked aghast and shocked at the oaths I poured 
out — blasphemous words learnt in my childhood, which I 
could not forget now that I would fain have purified myself 
of them ; while all the time Dick Jackson stood by, with 
a mocking smile of intelligence ; and when I had ended, 
breathless and weary with spent passion, he would turn to 
those whose respect I longed to earn, and ask if I were not 
a worthy son of my father, and likely to tread in his steps. 
But this smiling indifference of his to my miserable vehemence 
was not all, though it was the worst part of his conduct, 
for it made the rankhng hatred grow up in my heart, and 
overshadow it like the great gourd-tree of the prophet Jonah. 
But his was a merciful shade, keeping out the burning sun r 
mine blighted what it fell upon. 

What Dick Jackson did besides, was this. His father was a 
skilful overlooker, and a good man. Mr. Peel valued him so 
much, that he was kept on, although his health was failing ; 
and when he was unable, through illness, to come to the mill, 
he deputed his son to watch over, and report the men. It was 
too much power for one so young — I speak it calmly now. 
Whatever Dick Jackson became, he had strong temptations 
when he was young, which will be allowed for hereafter. But 
at the time of which I am telling, my hate raged like a fire. I 
believed that he was the one sole obstacle to my being received 
as fit to mix with good and honest men. I was sick of crime 
and disorder, and would fain have come over to a different 
kind of life and have been industrious, sober, honest, and 
right-spoken (I had no idea of higher virtue then), and at 
every turn Dick Jackson met me with his sneers. I have 
walked the night through, in the old abbey field, planning how: 
I could outwit him, and win men's respect in spite of him. 



3l8 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

The first time I ever prayed was underneath the silent stars, 
kneeling by the old abbey walls, throwing up my arms, and 
asking God for the power of revenge upon him. 

I had heard that if I prayed earnestly, God would give me 
what I asked for, and I looked upon it as a kind of chance for 
the fulfilment of my wishes. If earnestness would have won 
the boon for me, never were wicked words so earnestly spoken. 
And oh, later on, my prayer was heard, and my wish granted ! 
All this time I saw little of Nelly. Her grandmother was 
failing, and she had much to do indoors. Besides, I believed 
I had read her looks aright, when I took them to speak of 
aversion ; and I planned to hide myself from her sight, as it 
were, until I could stand upright before men, with fearless 
eyes, dreading no face of accusation. It was possible to 
acquire a good character; I would do it — I did it: but no 
one brought up among respectable untempted people can 
tell the unspeakable hardness of the task. In the evenings 
I would not go forth among the village throng ; for the 
acquaintances that claimed me were my father's old associates, 
who would have been glad enough to enlist a strong young 
man like me in their projects ; and the men who would have 
shunned me, and kept aloof, were the steady and orderly. 
So I stayed indoors, and practised myself in reading. You 
will say I should have found it easier to earn a good character 
away from Sawley, at some place where neither I nor my 
father was known. So I should ; but it would not have 
been the same thing to my mind. Besides, representing all 
good men, all goodness to me, in Sawley Nelly lived. In 
her sight I would work out my life, and fight my way 
upwards to men's respect. Two years passed on. Every 
day I strove fiercely ; every day my struggles were made 
fruitless by the son of the overlooker ; and I seemed but 
where I was — but where I must ever be esteemed by all wh.o 
knew me — but as the son of the criminal — wild, reckless, ripe 
for crime myself. Where was the use of my reading and 
writing? These acquirements were disregarded and scouted 
by those among whom I was thrust back to take my portion. 
I could have read any chapter in the Bible now ; and Nelly 
seemed as though she would never know it. I was driven in 
upon my books ; and few enough of them I had. The pedlars 
brought them round in their packs, and I bought what I 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 319 

could. I had the "Seven Champions," and the "Pilgrim's 
Progress;" and both seemed to me equally wonderful, and 
equally founded on fact. P got Byron's "Narrative," and 
Milton's "Paradise Lost;" but I lacked the knowledge which 
would give a clue to all. Still they afforded me pleasure, 
because they took me out of myself, and made me forget 
my miserable position, and made me unconscious (for the 
time at least) of my one great passion of hatred against 
Dick Jackson. 

When Nelly was about seventeen her grandmother died, 
I stood aloof in the churchyard, behind the great yew-tree, 
and watched the funeral. It was the first religious service 
that ever I heard ; and to my shame, as I thought, it affected 
me to tears. The words seemed so peaceful and holy that 
. I longed to go to church, but I durst not, because I had 
never been. The parish church was at Bolton, far enough 
away to serve as an excuse for all who did not care to go. 
I heard Nelly's sobs filling up every pause in the clergyman's 
voice ; and every sob of hers went to my heart. She passed 
me on her way out of the churchyard ; she was so near I 
might have touched her ; but her head was hanging down, 
and I durst not speak to her. Then the question arose, what 
was to become of her? She must earn her living; was it to 
be as a farm-servant or by working at the mill? I knew 
enough of both kinds of life to make me tremble for her. 
My wages were such as to enable me to marry, if I chose ; 
and I never thought of woman, for my wife, but Nelly. Still, 
I would not have married her now, if I could ; for, as yets 
I had not risen up to the character which I determined it 
was fit that Nelly's husband should have. When I was rich 
in good report, I would come forward and take my chance, 
but until then I would hold my peace. I had faith in the 
power of my long-continued dogged breasting of opinion. 
Sooner or later it must, it should, yield, and I be received 
among the ranks of good men. But, meanwhile, what was 
to become of Nelly ? I reckoned up my wages ; I went to 
inquire what the board of a girl would be who should help 
her in her household work, and live with her as a daughter, 
at the house of one of the most decent women of the place ; 
she looked at me suspiciously. I kept down my temper, 
and told her I would never come near the place ; that I 



3:0 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

would keep away from that end of the village, and that the 
girl for whom I made the inquiry should never know but 
what the parish paid for her keep. It would not do ; she 
suspected me ; but I know I had power over myself to 
have kept my word ; and besides, I would not for worlds 
have had Nelly put under any obligation to me, which should 
speck the purity of her love, or dim it by a mixture of grati- 
tude — the love that I craved to earn, not for my money, 
not for my kindness, but for myself. I heard that Nelly had 
met with a place in Bolland ; and I could see no reason why 
I might not speak to her once before she left our neigh- 
bourhood. I meant it to be a quiet friendly telling her of 
my sympathy in her sorrow. I felt I could command myself. 
So, on the Sunday before she was to leave Sawley, I waited 
near the wood-path by which I knew that she would return 
from afternoon church. The birds made such a melodious 
warble, such a busy sound among the leaves, that I did not 
hear approaching footsteps till they were close at hand, and 
then there were sounds of two persons' voices. The wood 
was near that part of Sawley where Nelly was staying with 
friends ; the path through it led to their house, and theirs only, 
so I knew it must be she, for I had watched her setting out to 
church alone. 

But who was the other? 

The blood went to my heart and head, as if I were shot, 
when I saw that it was Dick Jackson. Was this the end 
of it all? In the steps of sin which my father had trod, I 
would rush to my death and my doom. Even where I stood 
I longed for a weapon to slay him. How dared he come 
near my Nelly? She too — I thought her faithless, and forgot 
how little I had ever been to her in outward action ; how few 
words, and those how uncouth, I had ever spoken to her ; 
and I hated her for a traitress. These feelings passed through 
me before I could see, my eyes and head were so dizzy and 
blind. When I looked I saw Dick Jackson holding her hand, 
and speaking quick and low and thick, as a man speaks in 
great vehemence. She seemed white and dismayed ; but all 
at once, at some word of his (and what it was she never 
would tell me), she looked as though she defied a fiend, and 
wrenched herself out of his grasp. He caught hold of her 
again, and began once more the thick whisper that I loathed. 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 32 1 

I could bear it no longer, nor did I see why I should. I 
stepped out from behind the tree where I had been lying. 
When she saw me, she lost her look of one strung up to 
desperation, and came and clung to me ; and I felt like a 
giant in strength and might. I held her with one arm, but 
I did not take my eyes off him ; I felt as if they blazed down 
into his soul and scorched him up. He never spoke, but 
tried to look as though he defied me. At last, his eyes fell 
before mine ; I dared not speak, for the old horrid oaths 
thronged up to my mouth, and I dreaded giving them way, 
and terrifying my poor, trembling Nelly. 

At last, he made to go past me : I drew her out of the 
pathway. By instinct she wrapped her garments round her, 
as if to avoid his accidental touch ; and he was stung by 
this, I suppose — I believe- — to the mad, miserable revenge 
he took. As my back was turned to him, in an endeavour 
to speak some words to Nelly that might soothe her into 
calmness, she, who was looking after him, like one fascinated 
with terror, saw him take a sharp, shaley stone, and aim it 
at me. Poor darling ! she clung round me as a shield, making 
her sweet body into a defence for mine. It hit her, and she 
spoke no word, kept back her cry of pain, but fell at my feet 
in a swoon. He— the coward ! — ran off as soon as he saw 
w^hat he had done. I was with Nelly alone in the green 
gloom of the wood. The quivering and leaf-tinted light made 
her look as if she were dead. I carried her, not knowing 
if I bore a corpse or not, to her friend's house. I did not 
stay to explain, but ran madly for the doctor. 

Well ! I cannot bear to recur to that time again. Five 
weeks I lived in the agony of suspense ; from which my 
only relief was in laying savage plans for revenge. If I hated 
him before, what think ye I did now ? It seemed as if earth 
could not hold us twain, but that one of us must go down 
to Gehenna. I could have killed him ; and would have done 
it without a scruple, but that seemed too poor and bold a 
revenge. At length — oh, the weary waiting !— oh, the sicken- 
ing of my heart ! — Nelly grew better ; as well as she was ever 
to grow. The bright colour had left her cheek ; the mouth 
quivered with repressed pain, the eyes were dim with tears 
that agony had forced into them ; and I loved her a thousand 
times better and more than when she was bright and bloom - 

L 



322 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

ing ! What was best of all, I began to perceive that she 
cared for me. I know her grandmother's friends warned her 
against me, and told her I came of a bad stock ; but she had 
passed the point where remonstrance from bystanders can take 
effect — she loved me as I was, a strange mixture of bad and 
good, all unworthy of her. We spoke together now, as those 
do whose lives are bound up in each other. I told her I 
would marry her as soon as she had recovered her health. 
Her friends shook their heads ; , but they saw she would be 
unfit for farm-service or heavy work, and they perhaps thought, 
as many a one does, that a bad husband was better than 
none at all. Anyhow, we were married ; and I learnt lo 
bless God for my happiness so far beyond my deserts. 
I kept her like a lady. I was a skilful workman, and earned 
good wages ; and every want she had I tried to gratify* 
Her wishes were few and simple enough, poor Nelly! If 
they had been ever so fanciful, I should have had my 
reward in the new feeling of the holiness of home. She 
could lead me as a little child with the charm of her gentle 
voice, and her ever-kind words. She would plead for all 
when I was full of anger and passion ; only Dick Jackson's 
name passed never between our lips during all that time. 
In the evening she lay back in her beehive chair, and read 
to me. I think I see her now, pale and weak, with her 
sweet young face lighted by her holy, earnest eyes, telling 
me of the Saviour's life and death, till they were filled with 
tears. I longed to have been there, to have avenged Him 
on the wicked Jews. I liked Peter the best of all the 
disciples. But I got the Bible myself, and read the mighty 
act of God's vengeance, in the Old Testament, with a kind 
of triumphant faith that, sooner or later. He would take my 
cause in hand, and revenge me on mine enemy. 

In a year or so, Nelly had a baby — a httle girl with 
eyes just like hers, that looked, with a grave openness, 
right into yours. Nelly recovered but slowly. It was just 
before winter, the cotton-crop had failed, and master had 
to turn off many hands. I thought I was sure of being 
kept on, for I had earned a steady character, and did my 
work well ; but once again it was permitted that Dick Jackson 
should do me wrong. He induced his father to dismiss me 
among the first in my branch of the business ; and there 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 323 

was I, just before winter set in, with a wife and new-born 
child, and a small enough store of money to keep body 
and soul together till I could get to work again. All my 
savings had gone by Christmas Eve, and we sat in the house 
foodless for the morrow's festival. Nelly looked pinched and 
worn ; the baby cried for a larger supply of milk than its 
poor starving mother could give it. My right hand had 
not forgot its cunning, and I went out once more to my 
poaching. I knew where the gang met ; and I knew what 
a welcome back I should have — a far warmer and more 
hearty welcome than good men had given me when I tried 
to enter their ranks. On the road to the meeting-place I 
fell in with an old man, one who had been a companion to 
my father in his early days. 

"What, lad! " said he, "art thou turning back to the old 
trade? It's the better business, now that cotton has failed." 

"Ay," said I, "cotton is starving us outright, A man may 
bear a deal himself, but he'll do aught bad and sinful to save 
his wife and child." 

"Nay, lad," said he, "poaching is not sinful; it goes 
against man's laws, but not against God's." 

I was too weak to argue or talk much. I had not tasted 
food for two days. But I murmured, " At any rate, I trusted 
to have been clear of it for the rest of my days. It led my 
father wrong at first. I have tried and I have striven. Now I 
give all up. Right or wrong shall be the same to me. Some 
are fore-doomed; and so am I." And, as I spoke, some 
notion of the futurity that would separate Nelly, the pure and 
holy, from me, the reckless and desperate one, came over me 
with an irrepressible burst of anguish. Just then the bells of 
Bolton-in-Bolland struck up a glad peal, which came over the 
woods, in the solemn midnight air, hke the sons of the morning 
shouting for joy — they seemed so clear and jubilant. It was 
Christmas Day : and I felt like an outcast from the gladness 
and the salvation. Old Jonah spoke out : 

" Yon's the Christmas bells. I say, Johnny, my lad, I've no 
notion of taking such a spiritless chap as thou into the thick of 
it, with thy rights and thy wrongs. We don't trouble ourselves 
with such fine lawyer's stuff, and we bring down the ' varmint * 
all the better. Now, I'll not have thee in our gang, for thou 
art not up to the fun, and thou'd hang fire when the time came 



324 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

to be doing. But I've a shrewd guess that plaguey wife and 
child of thine are at the bottom of thy half-and-half joining. 
Now, I was thy father's friend afore he took to them helter- 
skelter ways, and I've five shiUings and a neck of mutton at 
thy service. I'll not list a fasting man ; but if thou'lt come to 
us with a full stomach, and say, ' I like your life, my lads, and 
I'll make one of you with pleasure, the first shiny night, 
why, we'll give you a welcome and a half ; but, to-night, make 
no more ado, but turn back with me for the mutton and the 
money." 

I was not proud : nay, I was most thankful. I took the 
meat, and boiled some broth for my poor Nelly. She was in a 
sleep, or a faint, I know not which ; but I roused her, and held 
her up in bed, and fed her with a teaspoon, and the light came 
back to her eyes, and the faint, moonlight smile to her lips ; 
and when she had ended, she said her innocent grace, and fell 
asleep, with her baby on her breast. I sat over the fire, and 
listened to the bells, as they swept past my cottage on the gusts 
of the wind. I longed and yearned for the second coming of 
Christ, of which Nelly had told me. The world seemed cruel, 
and hard, and strong — too strong for me ; and I prayed to 
cling to the hem of His garment, and be borne over the rough 
places when I fainted and bled, and found no man to pity or 
help me, but poor old Jonah, the publican and sinner. All this 
time my own woes and my own self were uppermost in my 
mind, as they are in the minds of most who have been hardly 
used. As I thought of my wrongs, and my sufferings, my 
heart burned against Dick Jackson ; and as the bells rose and 
fell, so my hopes waxed and waned, that in those mysterious 
days, of which they were both the remembrance and the 
prophecy, he would be purged from off the earth. I took 
Nelly's Bible, and turned, not to the gracious story of the 
Saviour's birth, but to the records of the former days, when the 
Jews took such w^ild revenge upon all their opponents. I was 
a Jew — a leader among the people. Dick Jackson was as 
Pharaoh, as the King Agag, who walked delicately, thinking 
the bitterness of death was past — in short, he was the con- 
quered enemy, over whom I gloated, with my Bible in my 
hand — that Bible which contained our Saviour's words on the 
Cross. As yet, those words seemed faint and meaningless 
to me, like a tract of country seen in the starlight haze ; while 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 325 

the histories of the Old Testament were grand and distinct in 
the blood-red colour of sunset. By-and-by that night passed 
into day, and little piping voices came round, carol-singing. 
They wakened Nelly. I went to her as soon as I heard her 
stirring. 

"Nelly," said I, "there's money and food in the house ; I 
will be off to Padiham seeking work, while thou hast something 
to go upon." 

"Not to-day," said she; "stay to-day with me. If thou 
wouldst only go to church with me this once" — for you see I 
liad never been inside a church but when we were married, and 
she was often praying me to go ; and now she looked at me, 
'with a sigh just creeping forth from her lips, as she expected 
a refusal. But I did not refuse. I had been kept away from 
church before because I dared not go ; and now I was des- 
perate, and dared do anything. If I did look like a heathen 
in the face of all men, why, I was a heathen in my heart, for I 
was falling back into all my evil ways. I had resolved, if my 
search of work at Padiham should fail, I would follow my 
father's footsteps, and take with my own right hand and by my 
strength of arm what it was denied me to obtain honestly. I 
had resolved to leave Sawley, where a curse seemed to hang 
over me : so what did it matter if I went to church, all un- 
beknowing what strange ceremonies were there performed ? I 
walked thither as a sinful man — sinful in my heart. Nelly 
hung on my arm, but even she could not get me to speak. I 
went in ; she found my places, and pointed to the words, and 
looked up into my eyes with hers, so full of faith and joy. But 
I saw nothing but Richard Jackson — I heard nothing but his 
loud nasal voice, making response, and desecrating all the holy 
words. He was in broadcloth of the best — I in my fustian 
jacket. He was prosperous and glad — I was starving and 
desperate. Nelly grew pale, as she saw the expression in my 
eyes ; and she prayed ever and ever more fervently as the 
thought of me tempted by the Devil even at that very moment 
came more fully before her. 

By-and-by she forgot even me, and laid her soul bare before 
God, in a long, silent, weeping prayer, before we left the church. 
Nearly all had gone ; and I stood by her, unwilling to disturb 
her, unable to join her. At last she rose up, heavenly calm. 
She took my arm, and we went home through the woods, where 



326 THE HEaIiT of JOHN MIDDLETON. 

all the birds seemed tame and familiar. Nelly said she thought 
all living creatures knew it was Christmas Day, and rejoiced, 
and were loving together. I believed it was the frost that had 
tamed them ; and I felt the hatred that was in me, and knew 
that Vvhatever else was loving, I was full of malice and uncharit- 
ableness ; nor did I wish to be otherwise. That afternoon I 
bade Nelly and our child farewell, and tramped to Padiham. I 
got work — how I hardly know ; for stronger and stronger came 
the force of the temptation to lead a wild, free life of sin ; legions 
seemed whispering evil thoughts to me, and only my gentle, 
pleading Nelly to pull me back from the great gulf. However, 
as I said before, I got work, and set off homewards to move my 
wife and child to that neighbourhood. I hated Sawley, and yet 
I was fiercely indignant to leave it, with my purposes unaccom- 
plished. I was still an outcast from the more respectable, who 
stood afar off from such as I ; and mine enemy lived and 
flourished in their regard. Padiham, however, was not so far 
away for me to despair — to relinquish my fixed determination. 
It was on the eastern side of the great Pendle Hill, ten miles 
away, maybe. Hate will overleap a greater obstacle. I took a 
cottage on the Fell, high up on the side of the hill. We saw a 
long black moorland slope before us, and then the grey stone 
houses of Padiham, over which a black cloud hung, different 
from the blue wood or turf smoke about Sawley. The wild 
winds came down and whistled round our house many a day 
when all was still below. But I v/as happy then. I rose in 
men's esteem. I had work in plenty. Our child lived and 
throve. But I forgot not our country proverb — " Keep a stone 
in thy pocket for seven years : turn it, and keep it seven years 
more ; but have it ever ready to cast at thine enemy when the 
time comes." 

One day a fellow-workman asked me to go to a hill-side 
preaching. Now, I never cared to go to church ; but there 
was something newer and freer in the notion of praying to God 
right under His great dome ; and the open air had had a charm 
to me ever since my wild boyhood. Besides, they said, these 
ranters had strange ways with them, and I thought it would be 
fun to see their way of setting about it ; and this ranter of all 
others had made himself a name in our parts. Accordingly we 
went ; it was a fine summer's evening, after work was done. 
When we got to the place we saw such a crowd as I never saw 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON, 327 

before — men, women, and children ; all ages were gathered to- 
gether, and sat on the hill-side. They were careworn, diseased^ 
sorrowful, criminal ; all that was told on their faces, which were 
hard and strongly marked. In the midst, standing in a cart, 
was the ranter. When I first saw him, I said to my companion, 
" Lord ! what a little man to make all this pother ! I could trip 
him up with one of my fingers," and then I sat down, and looked 
about me a bit. All eyes were fixed on the preacher ; and I 
turned mine upon him too. He began to speak ; it was in no 
fine-drawn language, but in words such as we heard every day 
of our lives, and about things we did every day of our lives. He 
' did not call our shortcomings pride or w^orldliness, or pleasure- 
seeking, which would have given us no clear notion of what he 
meant, but he just told us outright what we did, and then he 
gave it a name, and said that it was accursed, and that we were 
lost if we went on so doing. 

By this time the tears and sweat were running down his face ; 
he was wrestling for our souls. We wondered how he knew our 
innermost lives as he did, for each one of us saw his sin set before 
him in plain-spoken words. Then he cried out to us to repent ; 
and spoke first to us, and then to God, in a way that would have 
shocked many — but it did not shock me. I liked strong things ; 
and I liked the bare, full truth : and I felt brought nearer to 
God in that hour — the summer darkness creeping over us, and 
one after one the stars coming out above us, like the eyes of the 
angels watching us — than I had ever done in my life before. 
When he had brought us to our tears and sighs, he stopped his 
loud voice of upbraiding, and there was a hush, only broken by 
sobs and quivering moans, in which I heard through the gloom 
the voices of strong men in anguish and supplication, as well as 
the shri^ller tones of women. Suddenly he was heard again ; by 
this time we could not see him ; but his voice was now tender as 
the voice of an angel, and he told us of Christ, and implored us 
to come to Him. I never heard such passionate entreaty. He 
spoke as if he saw Satan hovering near us in the dark, dense 
night, and as if our only safety lay in a very present coming to 
the Cross ; I believe he did see Satan ; we know he haunts the 
desolate old hills, awaiting his time, and now or never it was 
with many a soul. At length there was a sudden silence ; and 
by the cries of those nearest to the preacher, we heard that he 
had fainted. We had all crowded round him, as if he were our 



328 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

safety and our guide ; and he was overcome by the heat and the 
fatigue, for we were the fifth set of people whom he had addressed 
that day. I left the crowd who were leading him down, and took 
a lonely path myself. 

Here was the earnestness I needed. To this weak and weary 
fainting man, religion was a life and a passion. I look back now, 
and wonder at my blindness as to what was the root of all my 
Nelly's patience and long-suffering ; for I thought now I had 
found out what religion was, and that hitherto it had been all 
an unknown thing to me. 

Henceforward, my life was changed. I was zealous and fana- 
tical. Beyond the set to whom I had affiliated myself, I had no 
sympathy. I would have persecuted all who differed from me, 
if I had only had the power. I became an ascetic in all bodily 
enjoyments. And, strange and inexplicable mystery, I had 
some thoughts that by every act of self-denial I was attaining 
to my unholy end, and that, when I had fasted and prayed 
long enough, God would place my vengeance in my hands. I 
have knelt by Nelly's bedside, and vowed to live a self-deny- 
ing life, as regarded all outward things, if so that God would 
grant my prayer. I left it in His hands. I felt sure He would 
trace out the token and the word ; and Nelly would hsten to 
my passionate words, and lie awake sorrowful and heart-sore 
through the night ; and I would get up and make her tea, and 
rearrange her pillows, with a strange and wilful blindness that 
my bitter words and blasphemous prayers had cost her miser- 
able, sleepless nights. My Nelly was suffering yet from that 
blow. How or where the stone had hurt her, I never under- 
stood ; but in consequence of that one moment's action, her 
limbs became numb and dead, and, by slow degrees, she took 
to her bed, from whence she was never carried alive. There 
she lay, propped up by pillows, her meek face ever bright, and 
smiling forth a greeting ; her white, pale hands ever busy with 
some kind of work ; and our little Grace was as the power of 
motion to her. Fierce as I was away from her, I never could 
speak to her but in my gentlest tones. She seemed to me as 
if she had never wrestled for salvation as I had ; and when 
away from her, I resolved many a time and oft, that I would 
rouse her up to her state of danger when I returned home that 
evening — even if strong reproach were required I would rouse 
her up to her soul's need. But I came in and heard her voice 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 329 

singing softly some holy word of patience, some psalm which, 
maybe, had comforted the martyrs, and when I saw her face 
like the face of an angel, full of patience and happy faith, I 
put off my awakening speeches till another time. 

One night, long ago, when I was yet young and strong, 
although my years were past forty, I sat alone in my house- 
place. Nelly was always in bed, as I have told you, and Grace 
lay in a cot by her side. I believed them to be both asleep ; 
though how they could sleep I could not conceive, so wild 
and terrible was the night. The wind came sweeping down 
from the hill-top in great beats, like the pulses of heaven ; and, 
during the pauses, while I listened for the coming roar, I felt 
the earth shiver beneath me. The rain beat against windows 
and doors, and sobbed for entrance. I thought the Prince of the 
Air was abroad ; and I heard, or fancied I heard, shrieks come 
on the blast, like the cries of sinful souls given over to his power. 

The sounds came nearer and nearer. I got up and saw to 
the fastenings of the door, for though I cared not for mortal 
man, I did care for what I believed was surrounding the house, 
in evil might and power. But the door shook as though it, 
too, were in deadly terror, and I thought the fastenings would 
give way. I stood facing the entrance, lashing my heart up 
to defy the spiritual enemy that I looked to see, every instant, 
in bodily presence ; and the door did burst open, and before 
me stood— what was it? man or demon? a grey-haired man, 
with poor, worn clothes all wringing wet, and he himself 
battered and piteous to look upon, from the storm he had 
passed through. 

" Let me in ! " he said. " Give me shelter. I am poor, or 
I would reward you. And I am friendless, too," he said, look- 
ing up in my face, hke one seeking what he cannot find. In 
that look, strangely changed, I knew that God had heard me ; 
for it was the old cowardly look of my Hfe's enemy. Had he 
been a stranger, I might not have welcomed him ; but as he 
was mine enemy, I gave him welcome in a lordly dish. I sat 
opposite to him. "Whence do you come?" said I. "It is 
a strange night to be out on the fells." 

He looked up at me sharp ; but in general he held his head 
down like a beast or hound. 

" You won't betray me. I'll not trouble you long. As soon 
as the storm abates, I'll go." 

L 2 



330 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

" Friend," said I, " what have I to betray?" and I trembled 
lest he should keep himself out of my power and not tell me. 
"You come for shelter, and I give you of my best. Why do 
you suspect me? " 

'•Because," said he, in his abject bitterness, "all the world 
is against me. I never met with goodness or kindness ; and 
now I am hunted like a wild beast. I'll tell you — I'm a con- 
vict returned before my time. I was a Sawley man" (as if I, 
of all men, did not know it !), "and I went back, like a fool, 
to the old place. They've hunted me out where I would fain 
have lived rightly and quietly, and they'll send me back to that 
hell upon earth, if they catch me. I did not know it would 
be such a night. Only let me rest and get warm once more, 
and I'll go away. Good, kind man, have pity upon me ! " I 
smiled all his doubts away ; I promised him a bed on the floor, 
and I thought of Jael and Sisera. My heart leaped up like a 
war-horse at the sound of the trumpet, and said, " Ha, ha, the 
Lord hath heard my prayer and supplication ; T shall have 
vengeance at last ! " 

He did not dream who I was. He was changed ; so that I, 
who had learned his features with all the dihgence of hatred, 
did not, at first, recognise him ; and he thought not of me, only 
of his own woe and affright. He looked into the fire with the 
dreamy gaze of one whose strength of character, if he had any, 
is beaten out of him, and cannot return at any emergency what- 
soever. He sighed and pitied himself, yet could not decide 
on what to do. I went softly about my business, which was 
to make him up a bed on the floor, and, when he was lulled 
to sleep and security, to make the best of my way to Padiham, 
and summon the constable, into whose hands I would give him 
up, to be taken back to his "hell upon earth." I went into 
Nelly's room. She was awake and anxious. I saw she had 
been listening to the voices. 

"Who is there?" said she. "John, tell me ; it sounded hke 
a voice I knew. For God's sake, speak ! " 

I smiled a quiet smile. " It is a poor man, who has lost his 
way. Go to sleep, my dear — I shall make him up on the floor. 
I may not come for some time. Go to sleep ; " and I kissed 
her. I thought she was soothed, but not fully satisfied. How- 
ever, I hastened away before there was any further time for 
questioning. I made up the bed, and Richard Jackson, tired 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 33I 

out, lay down and fell asleep. My contempt for him almost 
equalled my hate. If I were avoiding return to a place which 
I thought to be a hell upon earth, think you I would have 
taken a quiet sleep under any man's roof till, somehow or 
another, I was secure. Now comes this man, and, with in- , 
continence of tongue, blabs out the very thing he most should 
conceal, and then lies down to a good, quiet, snoring sleep. 
I looked again. His face was old, and worn, and miserable. 
So should mine enemy look. And yet it was sad to gaze upon 
him, poor, hunted creature ! 

I would gaze no more, lest I grew weak and pitiful. Thus 
I took my hat, and softly opened the door. The wind blew 
in, but did not disturb him, he was so utterly weary. I was 
out in the open air of night. The storm was ceasing, and, 
instead of the black sky of doom that I had seen when I 
last looked forth, the moon was come out, wan and pale, 
as if wearied with the fight in the heavens, and her white 
light fell ghostly and calm on many a well-known object. 
Now and then, a dark, torn cloud was blown across her 
home in the sky ; but they grew fewer and fewer, and at 
last she shone out steady and clear. I could see Padihaui 
down before me. I heard the noise of the watercourses down 
the hill-side. My mind was full of one thought, and strained 
upon that one thought, and yet my senses were most acute 
and observant. When I came to the brook, it was swollen. 
to a rapid, tossing river ; and the little bridge, with its hand- 
rail, was utterly swept away. It was like the bridge at Sawley, 
where I had first seen Nelly ; and I remembered that day even 
then in the midst of my vexation at having to go round. I 
turned away from the brook, and there stood a little figure 
facing me. No spirit from the dead could have affrighted 
me as it did ; for I saw it was Grace, whom I had left in 
bed by her mother's side. 

She came to me, and took my hand. Her bare feet glittered 
white in the moonshine, and sprinkled the light upwards, as 
they plashed through the pool. 

"Father," said she, "mother bade me say this." Then, 
pausing to gather breath and memory, she repeated these 
words like a lesson of which she feared to forget a syllable — 

" Mother says, ' There is a God in heaven ; and in His house 
are many mansions. If you hope to meet her there, you will 



332 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

come back and speak to her ; if you are to be separate for 
ever and ever, you will go on, and may God have mercy 
on her and on you ! ' Father, I have said it right — every 
word." 

I was silent. At last, I said — 

"What made mother say this? How came she to send 
you out?" 

"I was asleep, father, and I heard her cry. I wakened 
up, and I think you had but just left the house, and that 
she was caUing for you. Then she prayed, with the tears 
rolling down her cheeks, and kept saying — ' Oh, that I could 
walk! — oh, that for one hour I could run and walk!' So I 
said, ' Mother, I can run and walk. Where must I go ? " 
And she clutched at my arm, and bade God bless me, and 
told me not to fear, for that He would compass me about» 
and taught me my message : and now, father, dear father, 
you will meet mother in heaven, won't you, and not be 
separate for ever and ever?" She clung to my knees, and 
pleaded once more in her mother's words. I took her up in 
my arms, and turned homewards. 

" Is yon man there, on the kitchen floor?" asked I. 

" Yes ! " she answered. At any rate, my vengeance was not 
out of my power yet. 

When we got home I passed him, dead asleep. 

In our room, to which my child guided me, was Nelly. 
She sat up in bed, a most unusual attitude for her, and one 
of which I thought she had been incapable of attaining to 
without help. She had her hands clasped, and her face rapt, 
as if in prayer : and when she 'saw me, she lay back with a 
sweet ineffable smile. She could not speak at first ; but when 
I came near, she took my hand and kissed it ; and then she 
called Grace to her, and made her take off her cloak and her 
wet things, and dressed in her short scanty night-gown, she 
slipped in to her mother's warm side ; and all this time my 
Nelly never told me why she summoned me : it seemed enough 
that she should hold my hand, and feel that I was there. I 
believe she had read my heart ; and yet I durst not speak to 
ask her. At last, she looked up. "My husband," said she, 
"God has saved you and me from a great sorrow this night." 
I would not understand, and I felt her look die away into 
disappointment. 



THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 333 

"That poor wanderer in the house-place is Richard Jackson, 
is it not?" 

I made no answer. Her face grew white and wan. 

"Oh," said she, "this is hard to bear. Speak what is in 
your mind, I beg of you. I will not thwart you harshly ; 
dearest John, only speak to me." 

" Why need I speak ? You seem to know all." 

" I do know that his is a voice I can never forget ; and I do 
know the awful prayers you have prayed, and I know how I 
have lain awake, to pray that your words might never be heard ; 
and I am a powerless cripple. I put my cause in God's hands. 
You shall not do the man any harm. What you have it in your 
thoughts to do, I cannot tell. But I know that you cannot 
do it. My eyes are dim with a strange mist ; but some voice 
tells me that you will forgive even Richard Jackson. Dear 
husband — dearest John, it is so dark, I cannot see you: but 
speak once to me." 

I moved the candle ; but when I saw her face, I saw what 
was drawing the mist over those loving eyes — how strange and 
woeful that she could die ! Her little girl lying by her side 
looked in my face, and then at her ; and the wild knowledge of 
death shot through her young heart, and she screamed aloud. 

Nelly opened her eyes once more. They fell upon the 
gaunt, sorrow-worn man who was the cause of all. He roused 
him from his sleep, at that child's piercing cry, and stood at 
the doorway, looking in. He knew Nelly, and understood 
where the storm had driven him to shelter. He came to- 
wards her — 

"Oh, woman — dying woman — you have haunted me in the 
loneliness of the Bush far away — you have been in my dreams 
for ever — the hunting of men has not been so terrible as the 
hunting of your spirit — that stone — that stone ! " He fell down 
by her bedside in an agony ; above which her saint-like face 
looked on us all, for the last time, glorious with the coming 
light of heaven. She spoke once again — 

" It was a moment of passion ; I never bore you malice for it. 
I forgive you ; and so does John, I trust." 

Could I keep my purpose there? It faded into nothing. But, 
above my choking tears, I strove to speak clear and distinct, for 
her dying ear to hear, and her sinking heart to be gladdened. 

" I forgive you, Richard ! I will befriend you in your trouble." 



334 THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON. 

She could not see ; but, instead of the dim shadow of death 
stealing over her face, a quiet light came over it, which we knew 
was the look of a soul at rest. 

That night I listened to his tale for her sake ; and I learned 
that it is better to be sinned against than to sin. In the storm 
of the night mine enemy came to me ; in the calm of the grey 
morning I led him forth, and bade him "God speed," And a 
woe had come upon me, but the burning burden of a sinful, 
angry heart was taken off. I am old now, and my daughter is 
married. I try to go about preaching and teaching in my rough, 
rude way; and what I teach is, how Christ lived and died, and 
what was Nelly's faith of love. 



TRAITS AND STORIES OF 
THE HUGUENOTS. 



I HAVE always been interested in the conversation of any one 
who could tell me anything about the Huguenots ; and, 
little by little, I have picked up many fragments of information 
respecting them. I will just recur to the well-known fact, that 
five years after Henry the Fourth's formal abjuration of the 
Protestant faith, in fifteen hundred and ninety-three, he secured' 
to the French Protestants their religious liberty by the Edict of 
Nantes. His unworthy son, however, Louis the Thirteenth, re- 
fused them the privileges which had been granted to them by this 
act ; and, when reminded of the claims they had, if the promises 
of Henry the Third and Henry the Fourth were to be regarded, 
he answered that "the first-named monarch feared them, and 
the latter loved them ; but he neither feared nor loved them." 
The extermination of the Huguenots was a favourite project with 
Cardinal Richelieu, and it was at his instigation that the second 
siege of Rochelle was undertaken— known even to the most 
careless student of history for the horrors of famine which the 
besieged endured. Miserably disappointed as they were at the 
failure of the looked-for assistance from England, the mayor of 
the town, Guiton, rejected the conditions of peace which Car- 
dinal Richelieu offered ; namely, that they would raze their 
fortifications to the ground, and suffer the Catholics to enter. 
But there was a traitorous faction in the town ; and, on Guiton's 
rejection of the terms, this faction collected in one night a crowd 
of women, and children, and aged persons, and drove them 
beyond the lines ; they were useless, and yet they ate food. 
Driven out from the beloved city, tottering, faint, and weary, 
they were fired at by the enemy ; and the survivors came plead- 
335 



336 TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 

ing back to the walls of Rochelle, pleading for a quiet shelter to 
die in, even if their death were caused by hunger. When tvro- 
thirds of the inhabitants had perished ; when the survivors 
were insufficient to bury their dead ; when ghastly corpses out- 
numbered the living — miserable, glorious Rochelle, stronghold 
of the Huguenots, opened its gates to receive the Roman Catholic 
Cardinal, who celebrated mass in the church of St. Marguerite, 
once the beloved sanctuary of Protestant worship. As we cling 
to the memory of the dead, so did the Huguenots remember 
Rochelle. Years — long years of suffering — gone by, a village 
sprang up, not twenty miles from New York, and the name 
of that village was New Rochelle ; and the old men told with 
tears of the sufferings their parents had undergone when they 
were httle children, far away across the sea, in the "pleasant" 
land of France. 

Richelieu was otherwise occupied after this second siege of 
Rochelle, and had to put his schemes for the extermination 
of the Huguenots on one side. So they lived in a kind of 
trembling, uncertain peace during the remainder of the reign 
of Louis the Thirteenth. But they strove to avert persecution 
by untiring submission. It was not until sixteen hundred 
and eighty-three that the Huguenots of the south of France 
resolved to profess their religion, and refuse any longer to be 
registered among those of the Roman Catholic faith ; to be 
martyrs rather than apostates or hypocrites. On an appointed 
Sabbath, the old deserted Huguenot churches were re-opened ; 
nay, those in ruins, of which but a few stones remained to tell 
the tale of having once been holy ground, were peopled with 
attentive hearers, listening to the word of God as preached by 
reformed ministers. Languedoc, Cevennes, Dauphiny, seemed 
alive with Huguenots — even as the Highlands were, at the chief- 
tain's call, alive with armed men, whose tartans had been hidden 
but a moment before in the harmonious and blending colours of 
the heather. 

Dragonnades took place, and cruelties were perpetrated which 
it is as well, for the honour of human nature, should be for- 
gotten. Twenty-four thousand conversions were announced 
to Le Grand Louis, who fully believed in them. The more far- 
seeing Madame de Maintenon hinted at her doubts in the famous 
speech, " Even if the fathers are hypocrites, the children will be 
Catholics." 



r 



TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 337 

And then came the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. A 
multitude of weak reasons were alleged, as is generally the 
case where there is not one that is really good, or presentable ; 
such as that the Edict was never meant to be perpetual ; that 
(by the blessing of Heaven and the dragonnades) the Huguenots 
had returned to the true faith, therefore the Edict was useless — 
a mere matter of form, &c. &c. 

As a "mere matter of form," some penalties were decreed 
against the professors of the extinct heresy. Every Huguenot 
place of worship was to be destroyed ; every minister who 
refused to conform was to be sent to the Hopitaux de Forfats 
at Marseilles and at Valence. If he had been noted for his 
zeal he was to be considered "obstinate," and sent to slavery 
for life in such of the West-Indian islands as belonged to the 
French. The children of Huguenot parents were to be taken 
from them by force, and educated by the Roman Catholic 
monks or nuns. These are but a few of the enactments con- 
tained in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. 

And now come in some of the traditions which I have heard 
and collected. 

A friend of mine, a descendant from some of the Huguenots 
who succeeded in emigrating to England, has told me the 
following particulars of her great-great-grandmother's escape. 
This lady's father was a Norman farmer, or rather small landed 
proprietor. His name was Lefebvre ; he had two sons, grown 
men, stout and true ; able to protect themselves, and choose 
their own line of conduct. But he had also one little daughter, 
Magdalen, the child of his old age, and the darling of his house, 
keeping it alive and glad with her innocent prattle. His small 
estate was far away from any large town, with its corn-fields and 
orchards surrounding the old ancestral house. There was plenty 
always in it ; and though the wife was an invalid, there was 
always a sober cheerfulness present, to give a charm to the 
abundance. 

The family Lefebvre lived almost entirely on the produce of 
the estate, and had little need for much communication with 
their nearest neighbours, with whom, however, as kindly well- 
meaning people, they were on good terms, although they differed 
in their religion. In those days, coffee was scarcely known, even 
in large cities ; honey supplied the place of sugar ; and for the 
pottage, the bouilli, the vegetables, the salad, the fruit, the 



2,3^ TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 

garden, farm, and orchards of the Lefebvres was all-sufficient. 
The woollen cloth was spun by the men of the house on winter's 
evenings, standing by the great wheel, and carefully and slowly 
turning it to secure evenness of thread. The women took 
charge of the linen, gathering and drying, and beating the bad- 
smelling hemp, the ugliest crop that grew about the farm ; and 
reserving the delicate blue-flowered flax for the fine thread needed 
for the daughter's trousseau ; for as soon as a woman-child was 
born, the mother, lyiag too faint to work, smiled as she planned 
the web of dainty linen, which was to be woven at Rouen, out 
of the flaxen thread of gossamer fineness, to be spun by no 
hand, as you may guess, but that mother's own. And the farm 
maidens took pride in the store of sheets and table napery 
which they were to have a share in preparing for the future 
wedding of the little baby, sleeping serene in her warm cot by 
her mother's side. Such being the self-sufficient habits of the 
Norman farmers, it was no wonder that, in the eventful year 
of sixteen hundred and eighty-five, Lefebvre remained ignorant 
for many days of that Revocation which was stirring the whole 
souls of his co-religionists. But there was to be a cattle fair at 
Avranches, and he needed a barren cow to fatten up and salt for 
the winter's provision. Accordingly, the large-boned Norman 
horse was accoutred, summer as it was, with all its parapher- 
nalia of high-peaked wooden saddle, blue sheep-skin, scarlet 
worsted fringe and tassels ; and the farmer Lefebvre, shghtly 
stiff in his limbs after sixty winters, got on from the horse-block 
by the stable wall, his little daughter Magdalen nodding and 
kissing her hand as he rode away. When he arrived at the fair 
in the great place before the cathedral in Avranches, he was 
struck with the absence of many of those who were united to 
him by the bond of their common persecuted religion ; and on 
the faces of the Huguenot farmers who were there was an 
expression of gloom and sadness. In answer to his inquiries, 
he learnt for the first time of the Revocation of the Edict of 
Nantes. He and his sons could sacrifice anything — would be 
proud of martyrdom, if need were — but the clause which cut 
him to the heart was that which threatened that his pretty, 
innocent sweet Magdalen might be taken from him and consigned 
to the teachings of a convent. A convent, to the Huguenots' 
excited prejudices, implied a place of dissolute morals, as well 
as of idolatrous doctrine. 



TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 339 

Poor Farmer Lefebvre thought no more of the cow he went 
to purchase ; the life and death — nay, the salvation or damna- 
tion — of his darling seemed to him to depend on the speed with 
which he could reach his home, and take measures for her 
safety. What these were to be he could not tell in this moment 
of bewildered terror ; for, even while he watched the stable-boy 
at the inn arranging his horse's gear, without daring to help 
him, for fear his early departure and undue haste might excite 
suspicion in the malignant faces he saw gathering about him — 
even while he trembled with impatience, his daughter might be 
carried away out of his sight for ever and ever. He mounted 
and spurred the old horse ; but the road was hilly, and the 
steed had not had his accustomed rest, and was poorly fed, 
according to the habit of the country ; and, at last, he almost 
stood still at the foot of every piece of rising ground. Farmer 
Lefebvre dismounted, and ran by the horse's side up every hill, 
pulling him along, and encouraging his flagging speed by every 
conceivable noise, meant to be cheerful, though the tears were 
fast running down the old man's cheeks. He was almost sick 
with the revulsion of his fears, when he saw Magdalen sitting 
out in the sun, playing with the " froraages " of the mallow- 
plant, which are such a delight to Norman children. He got 
off his horse, which found its accustomed way into the stable. 
He kissed Magdalen over and over again, the tears coming 
down his cheeks like rain. And then he went in to tell his wife 
— his poor invalid wife. She received the news more tranquilly 
than he had done. Long illness had deadened the joys and 
fears of this world to her. She could even think and suggest. 
"That night a fishing-smack was to sail from Granville to the 
Channel Islands. Some of the people, who had called at the 
Lefebvre farm on their way to Avranches, had told her of 
ventures they were making, in sending over apples and pears to 
be sold in Jersey, where the orchard crops had failed. The cap- 
tain was a friend of one of her absent sons : for his sake " 

"But we must part from hey- — from Magdalen, the apple of 
our eyes. And she — she has never left her home before, never 
been away from us — who will take care of her ? Marie, I say» 
who is to take care of the precious child?" And the old man 
was choked with his sobs. Then his wife made answer, and. 
said — 

" God will take care of our precious child, and keep her safe 



340 TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 

from harm, till we two— or you, at least, dear husband — can 
leave this accursed land. Or, if we cannot follow her, she will 
be safe for heaven ; whereas if she stays here to be taken to the 
terrible convent, hell will be her portion, and we shall never see 
her again — never ! " 

So they were stilled by their faith into sufficient composure to 
plan for the little girl. The old horse was again to be harnessed 
and put into the cart, and if any spying Romanist looked into 
the cart, what would they see but straw and a new mattress 
rolled up, and peeping out of a sackcloth covering. The mother 
blessed her child, with a full conviction that she should never 
see her again. The father went with her to Granville. On the 
way the only relief he had was caring for her comfort in her 
strange imprisonment. He stroked her cheeks and smoothed 
her hair with his labour-hardened fingers, and coaxed her to eat 
the food her mother had prepared. In the evening her feet 
were cold ; he took off his warm flannel jacket to wrap them in. 
Whether it was that chill coming on the heat ,of the excited 
day, or whether the fatigue and grief broke down tl:e old man. 
utterly, no one can say. The child Magdalen was safely extri- 
ca'ted from her hiding-place at the Quai at Granville, and 
smuggled on board of the fishing-smack, with her great chest 
of clothes and half-collected troztsseau ; the captain took her 
safe to Jersey, and willing friends received her eventually in 
London. But the father — moaning to himself, "If I am 
bereaved of my children, I am bereaved," saying that pitiful 
sentence over and over again, as if the repetition could charm 
away the deep sense of woe — went home, and took to his bed 
and died ; nor did the mother remain long after him. 

One of these Lefebvre sons was the grandfather of the Duke 
of Dantzic, one of Napoleon's marshals. The little daughter's 
descendants, though not very numerous, are scattered over 
England, and one of them, as I have said, is the lady who told 
me this, and many other particulars relating to the exiled 
Huguenots. 

At first the rigorous decrees of the Revocation were princi- 
pally enforced against the ministers of religion. They were all 
required to leave Paris at forty-eight hours' notice, under severe 
penalties for disobedience. Some of the most distinguished 
among them were ignominiously forced to leave the country ; 
but the expulsion of these ministers was followed by the emigra- 



TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 341 

tion of the more faithful among their people. In Languedoc 
this was especially the case ; whole congregations followed their 
pastors ; and France was being rapidly drained of the more 
thoughtful and intelhgent of the Huguenots (who, as a people, 
had distinguished themselves in manufacture and commerce), 
when the king's minister took the alarm, and prohibited emigra- 
tion, under pain of imprisonment for life ; imprisonment for life 
including abandonment to the tender mercies of the priests. 
Here again I may relate an anecdote told me by my friend : — 
A husband and wife attempted to escape separately from some 
town in Brittany ; the wife succeeded and reached England, 
where she anxiously awaited her husband. The husband was 
arrested in the attempt, and imprisoned. The priest alone was 
allowed to visit him ; and after vainly using argument to endea- 
vour to persuade him to renounce his obnoxious religion, the 
priest, with cruel zeal, had recourse to physical torture. There 
was a room in the prison with an iron floor, and no seat, nor 
means of support or rest ; into this room the poor Huguenot 
was introduced. The iron flooring was gradually heated (one 
remem.bers the gouty gentleman whose cure was effected by a 
similar process in "Sandford and Merton ; " but there the heat 
was not carried up to torture, as it was in the Hug-uenot's case) ; 
still the brave man was faithful. The process was repeated ; 
all in vain. The flesh on the soles of his feet was burnt off, 
and he was a cripple for life ; but cripple or sound, dead or 
alive, a Huguenot he remained. And by-and-by they grew 
weary of their useless cruelty, and the poor man was allowed 
to hobble about on crutches. How it was that he obtained his 
liberty at last, my informant could not tell. He only knew that, 
after years of imprisonment and torture, a poor grey cripple- 
was seen wandering about the streets of London, making vain 
inquiries for his wife in his broken English, as little understood 
by most as the Moorish maiden's cry for "Gilbert, Gilbert." 
Some one at last directed him to a coffee-house near Soho 
Square, kept by an emigrant, who thrived upon the art, even 
then national, of making good coffee. It was the resort of the 
Huguenots, many of whom by this time had turned their intelli- 
gence to good account in busy, commercial England. 

To this coffee-house the poor cripple hied himself ; but no one 
knew of his wife ; she might be alive, or she might be dead ; it 
seemed as if her name had vanished from the earth. In the 



342 TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 

corner sat a pedlar, listening to everything but saying nothing. 
He had come to London to lay in a stock of wares for his 
rounds. Now the three harbours of the French emigrants were 
Norwich, where they established the manufacture of Norwich 
crape ; Spitalfields, in London, where they embarked in the 
silk trade ; and Canterbury, where a colony of them carried 
on one or two delicate employments, such as jewellery, wax- 
bleaching, &c. The pedlar took Canterbury in his way, and 
sought among the French residents for a woman who might 
correspond to the missing wife. She was there, earning her 
livelihood as a milliner, and believing her husband to be either 
a galley-slave, or dead long since in some of the terrible prisons. 
But, on hearing the pedlar's tale, she set off at once to London, 
and found her poor crippled husband, who lived many years 
afterwards in Canterbury, supported by his wife's exertions. 

Another Huguenot couple determined to emigrate. They 
could disguise themselves; but their baby? If they were seen 
passing through the gates of the town in which they lived, with 
a child, they would instantly be arrested, suspected Huguenots 
as they were. Their expedient was to wrap the baby into a 
formless bundle, to one end of which was attached a string ; 
and then, taking advantage of the deep gutter which runs in 
the centre of so many old streets in French towns, they placed 
the baby in this hollow, close to one of the gates, after dusk. 
The gendarme came out to open the gate to them. They 
were suddenly summoned to see a sick relation, they said ; 
they were known to have an infant child, which no Huguenot 
mother would willingly leave behind to be brought up by 
Papists. So the sentinel concluded that they were not going 
to emigrate, at least this time, and locking the great town- 
gates behind them, he re-entered his little guard-room. " Now 
quick ! quick ! the string under the gate ! Catch it with your 
hook stick ! There, in the shadow ! There ! Thank God ! 
the baby is safe ; it has not cried ! Pray God the sleeping 
draught be not too strong ! " It was not too strong. Father, 
mother, and babe escaped to England, and their descendants 
may be reading this very paper. 

England, Holland, and the Protestant states of Germany were 
the places of refuge for the Norman and Breton Protestants. 
From the south of France escape was more difficult. Algerine 
pirates infested the Mediterranean, and the small vessels ia 



TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 343 

which many of the Huguenots embarked from the southern 
ports were an easy prey. There were Huguenot slaves in 
Algiers and Tripoli for years after the Revocation of the Edict 
of Nantes. Most Catholic Spain caught some of the fugitives, 
who were welcomed by the Spanish Inquisition with a different 
kind of greeting from that which the wise, far-seeing William 
the Third of England bestowed on such of them as sought 
English shelter after his accession. We will return to the 
condition of the English Huguenots presently. First, let us 
follow the fortunes of those French Protestants who sent a 
letter to the State of Massachusetts (among whose historical 
papers it is still extant) giving an account of the persecutions 
to which they were exposed, and the distress they were under- 
going, stating the wish of many of them to emigrate to America, 
and asking how far they might have privileges allowed them 
for following out their pursuit of agriculture. What answer 
was returned may be guessed from the fact that a tract of 
land comprising about eleven thousand acres at Oxford, near 
the present town of Worcester, Massachusetts, was granted 
to thirty Huguenots, who were invited to come over and settle 
there. The invitation came like a sudden summons to a land 
of hope across the Atlantic. There was no time for prepara- 
tions ; these might excite suspicion ; they left the "pot boiling 
on the fire" (to use the expression of one of their descendants), 
and carried no clothes with them but what they wore. The 
New Englanders had too lately escaped from religious per- 
secution themselves not to welcome and shelter and clothe 
these poor refugees when they once arrived at Boston. The 
little French colony at Oxford was called a plantation, and 
Gabriel Bernon, a descendant of a knightly name in Froissart, 
a Protestant merchant of Rochelle, was appointed undertaker 
for this settlement. They sent for a French Protestant minister, 
and assigned to him a salary of forty pounds a year. They 
bent themselves assiduously to the task of cultivating the half- 
cleared land, on the borders of which lay the dark forest^ 
among which the Indians prowled and lurked ready to spring 
upon the unguarded households. To protect themselves from 
this creeping, deadly enemy the French built a fort, traces of 
which yet remain. But on the murder of the Johnson family 
the French dared no longer remain on the bloody spot, although 
more than ten acres of ground were in garden cultivation. 



344 TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 

around the fort ; and long afterwards, those who told in 
hushed, awe-struck voices of the Johnson murder, could point 
to the rose-bushes, the apple and pear trees yet standing in 
the Frenchmen's deserted gardens. Mrs. Johnson was a sister 
of Andrew Sigourney, one of the first Huguenots who came 
over. He saved his sister's life by dragging her by main 
force through a back door, while the Indians massacred her 
children, and shot down her husband at his own threshold. 
To preserve her life was but a cruel kindness. 

Gabriel Bernon lived to a patriarchal age, in spite of his early 
sufferings in France and the wild Indian cries of revenge around 
his home in Massachusetts. He died rich and prosperous. He 
had kissed Queen Anne's hand, and become intimate with some 
of the English nobihty, such as Lord Archdale, the Quaker 
Governor of Carolina, who had lands and governments in the 
American States. The descendants of the Huguenot refugees 
repaid in part their debt of gratitude to Massachusetts in various 
ways during the War of Independence ; one, Gabriel Manigault, 
by advancing a large loan to further the objects of it. Indeed, 
three of the nine presidents of the old Congress which conducted 
the United States through the revolutionary war were descendants 
of the French Protestant refugees. General Francis Marion, who 
fought bravely under Washington, was of Huguenot descent. In 
fact, both in England and France, the Huguenot refugees showed 
themselves temperate, industrious, thoughtful, and intelligent 
people, full of good principle and strength of character. But all 
this is implied in the one circumstance that they suffered and 
emigrated to secure the rights of conscience. 

In the State of New York they fondly called their plantation 
or settlement by the name of the precious city which had been their 
stronghold, and where they had suffered so much. New Rochelle 
was built on the shore of Long Island Sound, twenty-three miles 
from New York. On the Saturday afternoons the inhabitants of 
New Rochelle harnessed their horses to their carts, to convey the 
women and Httle ones, and the men in the prime of life walked 
all the distance to New York, camping out in their carts in the 
environs of the city through the night, till the bell summoned 
them on Sunday morning to service in the old Church du Saint 
Esprit. In the same way they returned on Sunday evening. 
The old longing for home, recorded in Allan Cunningham's 
ballad— 



TRAITS AND STORIES Of' THE HUGUENOTS. 345 

** It's hame, and it's hame, hame fain would I be ; 
Oh, hame, hame, hame, to my ain countree ! " — 

clung to the breasts, and caused singular melancholy in some of 
them. There was one old man who went every day down to the 
seashore, to look and gaze his fill towards the beautiful cruel land 
where most of his life had been passed. With his face to the 
east — his eyes strained as if by force of longing looks he could see 
the far-distant France — he said his morning prayers and sang one 
of Clement Marot's hymns. There had been an edition of the 
Psalms of David put into French rhyme (" Pseaumes de David, 
mis en Rime fran9oise, par Clement Marot et Theodore de 
Beze,"), published in as small a form as possible in order that the 
book might be concealed in their bosoms if the Huguenots were 
surprised in their worship while they lived in France. 

Nor were Oxford and New Rochelle the only settlements of 
the Huguenots in the United States. Farther south again they 
were welcomed, and found resting-places in Virginia and South 
Carolina. 

I now return to the Huguenots in England. Even during 
James the Second's reign, collections were made for the refugees ; 
and, in the reign of his successor, fifteen thousand pounds were 
voted by Parliament " to be distributed among persons of quality, 
and all such as, by age or infirmity, were unable to support them- 
selves." There are still, or were, not many years ago, a few 
survivors of the old Huguenot stock, who go, on quarter-day, to 
claim their small benefit from this fund at the Treasury ; and, 
doubtless, at the time it was granted there were many friendless 
and helpless to whom the httle pensions were inestimable boons. 
But the greater part were active, strong men, full of good sense 
and practical talent ; and they preferred taking advantage of the 
national good-will in a more independent form. Their descen- 
dants bear honoured names among us. Sir Samuel Romilly, 
Mrs. Austin, and Miss Harriet Martineau are three of those that 
come most prominently before me as I write ; but each of these 
names is suggestive of others in the same families worthy of note. 
Sir Samuel Romilly's ancestors came from the south of France, 
where the paternal estate fell to a distant relation rather than 
to the son, because the former was a Catholic, while the latter 
had preferred a foreign country with " freedom to worship God." 
In Sir Samuel Romilly's account of his father and grandfather, 



346 TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 

it is easy to detect the southern character predominating. 
Most affectionate, impulsive, generous, carried away by trans- 
ports of anger and of grief, tender and true in all his relation- 
ships — the reader does not easily forget the father of Sir Samuel 
Romilly, with his fond adoption of Montaigne's idea, " playing on 
a flute by the side of his daughter's bed, in order to waken her in 
the morning." No wonder he himself was so beloved I But 
there was much more demonstration of affection in all these 
French households, if what I have gathered from their descen- 
dants be correct, than we English should ever dare to manifest. 
French was the language still spoken among themselves sixty 
and seventy years after their ancestors had quitted France. In 
the Romilly family, the father established it as a rule that French 
should be always spoken on a Sunday. Forty years later, the 
lady to whom I have so often alluded was living, an orphan child 
with two maiden aunts, in the heart of London city. They always 
spoke French. English was the foreign language ; and a certain 
pride was cultivated in the little damsel's mind by the fact of her 
being reminded every now and then that she was a little French 
girl, bound to be polite, gentle, and attentive in manners ; to 
stand till her elders gave her leave to sit down ; to curtsey on 
entering or leaving a room. She attended her relations to- 
the early market near Spitalfields, where many herbs, not in 
general use in England, and some "weeds," were habitually 
brought by the market-women for the use of the French people. 
Burnet, chervil, dandelion, were amongst the number, in order 
to form the salads which were a principal dish at meals. 
There were still hereditary schools in the neighbourhood, kept 
by descendants of the first refugees who established them, and 
to which the Huguenot families still sent their children. A 
kind of correspondence was occasionally kept up with the un- 
seen and distant relations in France — third or fourth cousins, 
it might be. As was to be expected, such correspondence 
languished and died by slow degrees. But tales of their 
ancestors' sufferings and escapes beguiled the long winter 
evenings. Though far away from France, though cast off by 
her a hundred years before, the gentle old ladies, who had 
lived all their lives in London, considered France as their 
country, and England as a strange land. Upstairs, too, was a 
great chest — the very chest Madame Lefebvre had had packed 
to accompany her in her flight and escape in the mattress. 



TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 34/ 

The stores her fond mother liad provided for her trojisseau 
were not yet exhausted, though she slept in her grave ; and 
out of them her little orphan descendant was dressed ; and 
when the quaintness of the pattern made the child shrink 
from putting on so peculiar a dress, she was asl^ed, "Are you 
not a little French girl? You ought to be proud of wearing 
a French print — there are none like it in England." In all 
this, her relations and their circle seem to have differed from 
the refugee friends of old Mr. Romilly, who, we are told, 
"desired nothing less than to preserve the memory of their 
origin ; and their chapels were therefore ill-attended. A large, 
uncouth room, the avenues to which were narrow courts and 
dirty alleys, , . . with irregular unpainted pews and dusty un- 
plastered walls ; a congregation consisting principally of some 
strange-looking old women scattered here and there," &c. Pro- 
bably these old ladies looked strange to the child, who recorded 
these early impressions in after-life, because they clung with 
fond pride to the dress of their ancestors, and decked them- 
selves out in the rich grotesque raiment which had formed part 
of their mother's trousseau. At any rate, there certainly was 
a little colony in the heart of the city, at the end of the last 
century, who took pride in their descent from the sufferings 
Huguenots, who mustered up relics of the old homes and 
the old times in Normandy or Languedoc. A sword wielded 
by some great-grandfather in the wars of the League ; a gold 
whistle, such as hung ever ready at the master's girdle before 
bells were known in houses, or ready to summon out-of-door 
labourers ; some of the very ornaments sold at the famous 
curiosity-shop at Warwick for ladies to hang at their chate- 
laines, within this last ten years, were brought over by the 
flying Huguenots. And there were precious Bibles, secured 
by silver clasps and corners ; strangely-wrought silver spoons, 
the handle of which enclosed the bowl ; a travelling-case, con- 
taining a gold knife, spoon, and fork, and a crystal goblet,, 
on which the coat-of-arms was engraved in gold. All these,, 
and many other rehcs, tell of the affluence and refinement the 
refugees left behind for the sake of their religion. 

There is yet an hospital (or rather great almshouse) for aged 
people of French descent somewhere near the City Road, which 
is supported by the proceeds of land bequeathed, I believe, by 
some of the first refugees, who were prosperous in trade after 



34S TRAITS AND STORIES OF THE HUGUENOTS. 

settling in England. But it has lost much of its distinctive 
national character. Fifty or sixty years ago, a visitor might 
have heard the inmates of this hospital chattering away in anti- 
quated French. Now they speak English, for the majority of 
their ancestors in four generations have been English, and pro- 
bably some of them do not know a word of French. Each 
inmate has a comfortable bedroom, a small annuity for clothes, 
&c., and sits and has meals in a public dining-room. As a 
Httle amusing mark of deference to the land of their founders, 
I may mention that a Mrs. Stephens, who was admitted within 
the last thirty years, became Madame St. Etienne as soon as 
she entered the hospital. 

I have now told all I know about the Huguenots. I pass the 
mark to some one else. 



^S* 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 



AFTER I left Oxford, I determined to spend some months 
■ in travel before settling down in life. My father had left 
me a few thousands, the income arising from which would be 
enough to provide for all the necessary requirements of a 
lawyer's education ; such as lodgings in a quiet part of 
London, fees and payment to the distinguished barrister with 
whom I was to read ; but there would be small surplus left 
over for luxuries or amusements ; and as I was rather in debt 
on leaving college, since I had forestalled my income, and the 
expenses of my travelling would have to be defrayed out of my 
capital, I determined that they should not exceed fifty pounds. 
As long as that sum would last me I would remain abroad ; 
when it was spent my holiday should be over, and I would 
return and settle down somewhere in the neighbourhood of 

Russell Square, in order to be near Mr. 's chambers in 

Lincoln's Inn. I had to wait in London for one day while 
my passport was being made out, and I went to examine the 
streets in which I purposed to live ; I had picked them out, 
from studying a map, as desirable, and so they were, if judged 
entirely by my reason ; but their aspect was very depressing 
to one country-bred, and just fresh from the beautiful street- 
architecture of Oxford. The thought of living in such a mono- 
tonous grey district for years made me all the more anxious 
to prolong my holiday by all the economy which could eke 
out my fifty pounds. I thought I could make it last for one 
hundred days at least. I was a good walker, and had no 
very luxurious tastes in the matter of accommodation or food ; 
I had as fair a knowledge of German and French as any 
untravelled Englishman can have ; and I resolved to avoid 
expensive hotels such as my own countrymen frequented. 
349 



350 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

I have stated this much about myself to explain how I fell 
in with the little story that I am going to record, but with which 
I had not much to do — my part in it being little more than that 
■of a sympathising spectator. I had been through France into 
Switzerland, where I had gone beyond my strength in the way 
of walking, and I was on my way home, when one evening I 
came to the village of Heppenheim, on the Berg-Strasse. I 
had strolled about the dirty town of Worms all morning, and 
dined in a filthy hotel ; and after that I had crossed the Rhine, 
and walked through Lorsch to Heppenheim. I was unnaturally 
tired and languid as I dragged myself up the rough-paved and 
irregular village street to the inn recommended to me. It was 
a large building with a green court before it. A cross-looking 
but scrupulously clean hostess received me, and showed me into 
a large room with a dinner-table in it, which, though it might 
have accommodated thirty or forty guests, only stretched down 
half the length of the eating-room. There were windows at 
each end of the room ; two looked to the front of the house, on 
which the evening shadows had already fallen; the opposite 
two were partly doors, opening into a large garden full of 
trained fruit trees and beds of vegetables, amongst which rose- 
bushes and other flowers seemed to grow by permission, not by 
original intention. There was a stove at each end of the room, 
which, I suspect, had originally been divided into two. The 
door by which I had entered was exactly in the middle, and 
opposite to it was another, leading to a great bed-chamber, 
which my hostess showed me as my sleeping quarters for the 
night. 

If the place had been much less clean and inviting, I should 
have remained there ; I was almost surprised myself at my vis 
inerticB ; once seated in the last warm rays of the slanting sun 
by the garden window, I was disinclined to move, or even to 
speak. My hostess had taken my orders as to my evening 
meal, and had left me. The sun went down, and I grew 
shivery. The vast room looked cold and bare ; the darkness 
brought out shadows that perplexed me, because I could not 
fully make out the objects that produced them after dazzling 
my eyes by gazing out into the crimson light. 

Some one came in ; it was the maiden to prepare for my 
supper. She began to lay the cloth at one end of the large 
table. There was a smaller one close by me. I mustered up 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 35 I 

ray voice, which seemed a httle as if it were getting beyond my 
control, and called to her — 

" Will you let me have my supper here on this table?" 
She came near ; the light fell on her while I was in shadow. 
She was a tall young woman, with a fine strong figure, a pleasant 
face, expressive of goodness and sense, and with a good deal 
of comeliness about it too, although the fair complexion was 
bronzed and reddened by weather, so as to have lost much of 
its delicacy, and the features, as I had afterwards opportunity- 
enough of observing, were anything but regular. She had white 
teeth, however, and well-opened blue eyes— grave-looking eyes 
which had shed tears for past sorrow — plenty of hght-brown 
hair, rather elaborately plaited, and fastened up by two great 
silver pins. That was all — perhaps more than all — I noticed 
that first night. She began to lay the cloth where I had 
directed. A "shiver passed over me; she looked at me, and 
then said — 

" The gentleman is cold ; shall I light the stove ?" 
Something vexed me — I am not usually so impatient : it was 
the coming on of serious illness — I did not like to be noticed 
so closely ; I believed that food would restore me, and I did 
not want to have my meal delayed, as I feared it might be 
by the lighting of the stove : and most of all I was feverishly 
annoyed by movement. I answered sharply and abruptly — 
'' No ; bring supper quickly ; that is all I want." 
Her quiet, sad eyes met mine for a moment ; but I saw no 
change in their expression, as if I had vexed her by my rude- 
ness : her countenance did not for an instant lose its look of 
patient sense, and that is pretty nearly all I can remember of 
Thekla that first evening at Heppenheim. 

I suppose I ate my supper, or tried to do so, at any rate ; and 
I must have gone to bed, for days after I became conscious of 
lying there, weak as a new-born babe, and with a sense of past 
pain in all my weary limbs. As is the case in recovering from 
fever, one does not care to connect facts, much less to reason 
upon them ; so how I came to be lying in that strange bed, in 
that large, half-furnished room, in what house that room was, 
in what town, in what country, I did not take the trouble to 
recall. It was of much more consequence to me then to discover 
what was the well-known herb that gave the scent to the clean, 
coarse sheets in which I lay. Gradually I extended my observa- 



352 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

tions, always confining myself to the present. I must have bsen 
well cared for by some one, and that lately too, for the window 
was shaded, so as to prevent the morning sun from coming in 
upon the bed ; there was the crackling of fresh wood in the great 
white china stove, which must l^ave been newly replenished within 
a short time. 

By-and-by the door opened slowly. I cannot tell why, but 
my impulse was to shut my eyes as if I were still asleep. But 
I could see through my apparently closed eyelids. In came, 
walking on tip-toe, with a slow care that defeated its object, 
two men. The first was aged from thirty to forty, in the dress of 
a Black Forest peasant — old-fashioned coat and knee-breeches 
of strong blue cloth, but of a thoroughly good quality ; he was 
followed by an older man, whose dress, of more pretension as to 
cut and colour (it was all black), was, nevertheless, as I had 
often the opportunity of observing afterwards, worn threadbare. 

Their first sentences, in whispered German, told me who they 
were : the landlord of the inn where I was lying a helpless log, 
and the village doctor who had been called in. The latter felt 
my pulse, and nodded his head repeatedly in approbation. I 
had instinctively known that I was getting better, and hardly 
cared for this confirmation ; but it seemed to give the truest 
pleasure to the landlord, who shook the hand of the doctor in a 
pantomime expressive of as much thankfulness as if I had been 
his brother. Some low-spoken remarks were made, and then 
some question was asked, to which, apparently, my host was 
unable to reply. He left the room, and in a minute or two re- 
turned, followed by Thekla, who was questioned by the doctor, 
and replied with a quiet clearness, showing how carefully the 
details of my illness had been observed by her. Then she left 
the room, and, as if every minute had served to restore to my 
brain its power of combining facts, I was suddenly prompted to 
open my eyes, and ask in the best German I could muster what 
day of the month it was ; not that I clearly remembered the date 
of my arrival at Heppenheim, but I knew it was about the be- 
ginning of September. 

Again the doctor conveyed his sense of extreme satisfaction in 
a series of rapid pantomimic nods, and then replied, in deliberate 
but tolerable English, to my great surprise — 

"It is the 29th of September, my dear sir. You must thank 
the dear God. Your fever has made its course of twenty-one 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 353 

days. Now patience and care must be practised. The good 
host and his household will have the care ; you must have the 
patience. If you have relations in England, I will do my en- 
deavours to tell them the state of your health." 

" I have no near relations," said I, beginning in my weakness 
to cry, as I remembered, as if it had been a dream, the days 
when I had father, mother, sister. 

"Chut, chut!" said he; then, turning to the landlord, he 
told him in German to make Thekla bring me one of her good 
bouillons ; after which I was to have certain medicines, and to 
sleep as undisturbedly as possible. For days, he went on, I 
should require constant watching and careful feeding ; every 
twenty minutes I was to have something, either wine or soup, 
in small quantities. 

A dim notion came into my hazy mind that my previous hus- 
bandry of my fifty pounds, by taking long walks and scanty diet, 
would prove in the end very bad economy ; but I sank into dozing 
unconsciousness before I could quite follow out my idea. I was 
roused by the touch of a spoon on my lips ; it was Thekla feed- 
ing me. Her sweet, grave face had something approaching to 
a mother's look of tenderness upon it, as she gave me spoonful 
after spoonful with gentle patience and dainty care : and then 
I fell asleep once more. When next I wakened it was night ; 
the stove was lighted, and the burning wood made a pleasant 
crackle, though I could only see the outlines and edges of red 
flame through the crevices of the small iron door. The un- 
curtained window on my left looked into the purple solemn 
night. Turning a little, I saw Thekla sitting near a table, sew- 
ing diligently at some great white piece of household work. 
Every now and then she stopped to snuff the candle ; sometimes 
she began to ply her needle again immediately ; but once or 
twice she let her busy hands lie idly in her lap, and looked into 
the darkness, and thought deeply for a moment or two ; these 
pauses always ended in a kind of sobbing sigh, the sound of 
which seemed to restore her to self-consciousness, and she took 
to her sewing even more diligently than before. Watching her 
had a sort of dreamy interest for me ; this diligence of hers was 
a pleasant contrast to my repose ; it seemed to enhance the 
flavour of my rest. I was too much of an animal just then to 
have my sympathy, or even my curiosity, strongly excited by 
her look of sad remembrance, or by her sighs. 



354 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

After a while she gave a httle start, looked at a watch lying by 
her on the table, and came, shading the candle by her hand, 
softly to my bedside. When she saw my open eyes she went to 
a porringer placed at the top of the stove, and fed me with soup. 
She did not speak while doing this. I was half aware that she 
had done it many times since the doctor's visit, although this 
seemed to be the first time that I was fully awake. She passed 
her arm under the pillow on which my head rested, and raised 
me a very little ; her support was as firm as a man's could have 
been. Again back to her work, and I to my slumbers, without 
a word being exchanged. 

It was broad daylight when I wakened again ; I could see the 
sunny atmosphere of the garden outside stealing in through the 
nicks at the side of the shawl hung up to darken the room — a 
shawl which I was sure had not been there when I had observed 
the window in the night. How gently my nurse must have 
moved about while doing her thoughtful act ! 

My breakfast was brought me by the hostess ; she who had 
received me on my first arrival at this hospitable inn. She 
meant to do everything kindly I am sure ; but a sick-room was 
not her place ; by a thousand little mal-adroitnesses she fidgeted 
me past bearing : her shoes creaked, her dress rustled ; she 
asked me questions about myself which it irritated me to 
answer ; she congratulated me on being so much better, while 
I was faint for want of food which she delayed giving me in 
order to talk. My host had more sense in him when he came 
in, although his shoes creaked as well as hers. By this time 
I was somewhat revived, and could taik a Httle ; besides, it 
seemed churlish to be longer without acknowledging so much 
kindness received. 

" I am afraid I have been a great trouble," said I. "I can 
only say that I am truly grateful." 

His good, broad face reddened, and he moved a little uneasily. 

" I don't see how I could have done otherwise than I — than 
we did," replied he, in the soft German of the district. "We 
were all glad enough to do what we could ; I don't say it was a 
pleasure, because it is our busiest time of year — but then," said 
he, laughing a little awkwardly, as if he feared his expression, 
might have been misunderstood, " I don't suppose it has been a 
pleasure to you either, sir, to be laid up so far from home." 

*' No, indeed." 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 355 

" I may as well tell you now, sir, that we had to look over 
your papers and clothes. In the first place, when you were so 
ill I would fain have let your kinsfolk know, if I could have 
found a clue ; and besides, you needed hnen." 

" I am wearing a shirt of yours, though," said I, touching my 
sleeve. 

" Yes, sir ! " said he, again reddening a little. " I told Thekla 
to take the finest out of the chest ; but I am afraid you find it 
coarser than your own." 

For all answer I could only lay my weak hand on the great 
brown paw resting on the bed-side. He gave me a sudden 
squeeze in return that I thought would have crushed my bones. 

" I beg your pardon, sir," said he, misinterpreting the sudden 
look of pain which I could not repress ; " but watching a man 
come out of the shadow of death into life makes one feel very 
friendly towards him." 

"No old or true friend that I have had could have done 
more for me than you, and your wife, and Thekla, and the 
good doctor." 

" I am a widower," said he, turning round the great wedding- 
ring that decked his third finger. ' ' My sister keeps house for 
me, and takes care of the children— that is to say, she does it 
with the help of Thekla, the house-maiden. But I have other 
servants," he continued. "I am well-to-do, the good God be 
thanked! I have land, and cattle, and vineyards. It will soon 
be our vintage-time, and then you must go and see my grapes 
as they come into the village. I have a ' chasse,' too, in the 
Odenwald ; perhaps one day you will be strong enough to go 
and shoot the ' chevreuiV with me," 

His good, true heart was trying to make me feel like a wel- 
come guest. Some time afterwards I learnt from the doctor 
that — my poor fifty pounds being nearly all expended — my host 
and he had been brought to believe in my poverty, as the neces- 
sary examination of my clothes and papers showed so little 
evidence of wealth. But I myself have but little to do with my 
story ; I only name these things, and repeat these conversations, 
to show what a true, kind, honest man my host was. By the 
way, I may as well call him by his name henceforward, Fritz 
Miiller. The doctor's name, Wiedermann. 

I was tired enough with this interview with Fritz Miiller ; but 
when Dr. Wiedermann came he pronounced me to be much 



356 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

better ; and through the day much the same course was pursued 
as on the previous one : being fed, lying still, and sleeping, 
were my passive and active occupations. It was a hot, sun- 
shiny day, and I craved for air. Fresh air does not enter into 
the pharmacopoeia of a German doctor ; but somehow I obtained 
my wish. During the morning hours the window through 
which the sun streamed — the window looking on to the front 
court — was opened a httle ; and through it I heard the sounds 
of active life, which gave me pleasure and interest enough. 
The hen's cackle, the cock's exultant call when he had found 
the treasure of a grain of corn, the movements of a tethered 
donkey, and the cooing and whirring of the pigeons which 
lighted on the window-sill, gave me just subjects enough for 
interest. Now and then a cart or carriage drove up — I could 
hear them ascending the rough village street long before they 
stopped at the " Halbmond," the village inn. Then there 
came a sound of running and haste in the house ; and Thekla 
was always called for in sharp, imperative tones. I heard 
little children's footsteps, too, from time to time ; and once 
there must have been some childish accident or hurt, for a 
shrill, plaintive little voice kept calling out, "Thekla, Thekla, 
Hebe Thekla." Yet, after the first early morning hours, when 
my hostess attended on my wants, it was always Thekla who 
came to give me my food or my medicine ; who redded up my 
room ; who arranged the degree of light, shifting the temporary 
curtain with the shifting sun ; and always as quietly and de- 
liberately as though her attendance upon me were her sole 
work. Once or twice my hostess came into the large eating- 
room (out of which my room opened), and called Thekla away 
from whatever was her occupation in my room at the time, in a 
sharp, injured, imperative whisper. Once I remember it was 
to say that sheets were wanted for some stranger's bed, and to 
ask where she, the speaker, could have put the keys, in a tone 
of irritation, as though Thekla were responsible for Fraulein 
Miiller's own forgetfulness. 

Night came on ; the sounds of daily life died away into 
silence ; the children's voices were no more heard ; the poultry 
were all gone to roost ; the beasts of burden to their stables ; 
and travellers were housed. Then Thekla came in softly and 
quietly, and took up her appointed place, after she had done 
all in her power for my comfort. I felt that I was in no 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 357 

state to be left all those weary hours which intervened between 
sunset and sunrise ; but I did feel ashamed that this young 
woman, who had watched by me all the previous night, and, 
for aught I knew, for many before, and had worked hard, 
been run off her legs, as English servants would say, all day 
long, should come and take up her care of me again ; and 
it was with a feeling of relief that I saw her head bend 
forwards, and finally rest on her arms, which had fallen on 
the white piece of sewing spread before her on the table. 
She slept ; and I slept. When I wakened dawn was stealing 
into the room, and making pale the lamplight. Thekla 
was standing by the stove, where she had been preparing 
the bouillon I should require on wakening. But she did not 
notice my half-open eyes, although her face was turned towards 
the bed. She was reading a letter slowly, as if its words were 
familiar to her, yet as though she were trying afresh to extract 
some fuller or some different meaning from their construction. 
She folded it up softly and slowly, and replaced it in her pocket 
with the quiet movement habitual to her. Then she looked 
before her, not at me, but at vacancy filled up by memories ; 
and as the enchanter brought up the scenes and people which 
she saw, but I could not, her eyes filled with tears — tears that 
gathered almost imperceptibly to herself as it would seem — for 
when one large drop fell on her hands (held slightly together 
before her as she stood) she started a little, and brushed her 
eyes with the back of her hand, and then came towards the bed 
to see if I was awake. If I had not witnessed her previous 
emotion, I could never have guessed that she had any hidden 
sorrow or pain from her manner, tranquil, self-restrained as 
usual. The thought of this letter haunted me, especially as 
more than once I, wakeful or watchful during the ensuing 
nights, either saw it in her hands, or suspected that she had 
been recurring to it from noticing the same sorrowful, dreamy 
look upon her face when she thought herself unobserved. Most 
likely every one has noticed how inconsistently out of proportion 
some ideas become when one is shut up in any place without 
cliange of scene or thought. I really grew quite irritated about 
this letter. If I did not see it, I suspected it \2iy perdu in her 
pocket. What was in it ? Of course it was a love-letter ; but 
if so, what was going wrong in the course of her love ? I became 
like a spoilt child in my recovery ; every one whom I saw for 



358 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

the time being was thinking only of me, so it was perhaps no 
wonder that I became my sole object of thought ; and at last 
the gratification of my curiosity about this letter seemed to me 
a duty that I owed to myself. As long as my fidgety inquisitive- 
ness remained ungratified, I felt as if I could not get well. But, 
to do myself justice, it was more than inquisitiveness, Thekla 
had tended me with the gentle, thoughtful care of a sister, in 
the midst of her busy life. I could often hear the Fraulein's 
sharp voice outside blaming her for something that had gone 
wrong ; but I never heard much from Thekla in reply. Her 
name was called in various tones by different people, more 
frequently than I could count, as if her services were in perpetual 
requisition, yet I was never neglected, or even long uncared-for. 
The doctor was kind and attentive ; my host friendly and really 
generous ; his sister subdued her acerbity of manner when in 
my room ; but Thekla was the one of all to whom I owed my 
comforts, if not my life. If I could do anything to smooth her 
path (and a little money goes a great way in these primitive 
parts of Germany), how willingly would I give it? So one night 
I began — she was no longer needed to watch by my bedside, but 
she was arranging my room before leaving me for the night — 

"Thekla," said I, "you don't belong to Heppenheim, do 
you?" 

She looked at me, and reddened a little. 

" No. Why do you ask ? " 

" You have been so good to me that I cannot help wanting to 
know more about you. I must needs feel interested in one who 
has been by my side through my illness as you have. Where 
do your friends live? Are your parents alive?" 

All this time I was driving at the letter. 

" I was born at Altenahr. My father is an innkeeper there. 
He owns the 'Golden Stag.' My mother is dead, and he has 
married again, and has many children." 

"And your stepmother is unkind to you," said I, jumping to 
a conclusion. 

"Who said so?" asked she, with a shade of indignation in 
her tone. " She is a right good woman, and makes my father 
a good wife." 

" Then why are you here living so far from home?" 

Now the look came back to her face which I had seen upon 
it during the night hours when I had watched her by stealth ! 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 359 

a dimming of the grave frankness of her eyes, a hght quiver at 
the corners of her mouth. But all she said was, " It was better." 

Somehow, I persisted with the wilfulness of an invalid. I am 
half-ashamed of it now. 

"But why better, Thekla? Was there" How should 

I put it? I stopped a little, and then rushed blindfold at my 
object : " Has not that letter which you read so often something 
to do with your being here?" 

She fixed me with her serious eyes till I believe I reddened 
far more than she ; and I hastened to pour out, incoherently 
enough, my conviction that she had some secret care, and my 
desire to help her if she was in any trouble. 

"You cannot help me," said she, a little softened by my 
explanation, though some shade of resentment at having been 
thus surreptitiously watched yet lingered in her manner. "It 
is an old story ; a sorrow gone by, past, at least it ought to be, 
only sometimes I am foolish " — her tones were softening now — 
"and it is punishment enough that you have seen my folly." 

" If you had a brother here, Thekla, you would let him 
give you his sympathy if he could not give you his help, 
and you would not blame yourself if you had shown him your 
sorrow, should you? I tell you again, let me be as a brother 
to you." 

"In the first place, sir" — this "sir" was to mark the dis- 
tinction between me and the imaginary brother — " I should 
have been ashamed to have shown even a brother my sorrow, 
which is also my reproach and my disgrace." These were 
strong words, and I suppose my face showed that I attributed 
to them a still stronger meaning than they warranted ; but honi 
soit qui mal y pense — for she went on dropping her eyes and 
speaking hurriedly. 

' ' My shame and my reproach is this : I have loved a man 
who has not loved me" — she grasped her hands together till 
the fingers made deep white dents in the rosy flesh — "and I 
can't make out whether he ever did, or whether he did once 
and is changed now ; if only he did once love me, I could for- 
give myself." 

With hasty, trembling hands she began to re-arrange the 
tisane and medicines for the night on the little table at my 
bed-side. But, having got thus far, I was determined to 
persevere. 



360 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

" Thekla," said I, " tell me all about it, as you would to your 
mother, if she were alive. There are often misunderstandings 
which, never set to rights, make the misery and desolation of a 
lifetime." 

She did not speak at first. Then she pulled out the letter, 
and said, in a quiet, hopeless tone of voice — 

"You can read German writing? Read that, and see if I 
have any reason for misunderstanding." 

The letter was signed " Franz Weber," and dated from some 
small town in Switzerland — I forget what — about a month 
previous to the time when I read it. It began with acknow- 
ledging the receipt of some money which had evidently been 
requested by the writer, and for which the thanks were almost 
fulsome, and then, by the quietest transition in the world, he 
went on to consult her as to the desirability of his marrying 
some girl in the place from which he wrote, saying that this 
Anna Somebody was only eighteen, and very pretty, and her 
father a well-to-do shopkeeper, and adding, with coarse cox- 
combry, his belief that he was not indifferent to the maiden 
herself. He wound up by saying that, if this marriage did take 
place, he should certainly repay the various sums of money 
which Thekla had lent him at different times. 

I was some time in making out all this. Thekla held the 
candle for me to read it ; held it patiently and steadily, not 
speaking a word till I had folded up the letter again, and given 
it back to her. Then our eyes met. 

"There is no misunderstanding possible, is there, sir?" asked 
she, with a faint smile. 

" No," I rephed ; " but you are well rid of such a fellow." 

She shook her head a httle. " It shows his bad side, sir. 
We have all our bad sides. You must not judge him 
harshly ; at least, I cannot. But then we were brought up 
together." 

" At Altenahr ? " 

"Yes; his father kept the other inn, and our parents, 
instead of being rivals, were great friends. Franz is a little 
younger than I, and was a delicate child. I had to take him 
to school, and I used to be so proud of it and of my charge. 
Then he grew strong, and was the handsomest lad in the 
village. Our fathers used to sit and smoke together, and talk 
of our marriage, and Franz must have heard as much as I. 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 361 

Whenever he was in trouble, he would come to me for what 
advice I could give him, and he danced twice as often with 
me as with any other girl at all the dances, and always 
brought his nosegay to me. Then his father wished him 
to travel, and learn the ways at the great hotels on the 
Rhine before he settled down in Altenahr. You know that 
is the custom in Germany, sir. They go from town to 
town as journeymen, learning something fresh everywhere, 
they say." 

" I knew that was done in trades," I replied. 

"Oh, yes; and among inn-keepers, too," she said. "Most 
of the waiters at the great hotels in Frankfort, and Heidel- 
berg, and Mayence, and I dare say at all the other places, are 
the sons of inn-keepers in small towns, who go out into the 
world to learn new ways, and perhaps to pick up a little 
English and French ; otherwise, they say, they should never 
get on. Franz went off from Altenahr on his journeyings 
four years ago next May-day, and before he went, he brought 
me back a ring from Bonn, where he bought his new clothes. 
I don't wear it now ; but I have got it upstairs, and it comforts 
me to see something that shows me it was not all my silly 
fancy. I suppose he fell among bad people, for he soon 
began to play for money — and then he lost more than he 
could always pay ; and sometimes I could help him a little, 
for we wrote to each other from time to time, as we knew each 
other's addresses ; for the little ones grew around my father's 
hearth, and I thought that I, too, would go forth into the 
world and earn my own living, so that — well, I will tell the 
truth — I thought that by going into service, I could lay by 
enough for buying a handsome stock of household linen, and 
plenty of pans and kettles against — against what will never come 
to pass now." 

"Do the German women buy the pots and kettles, as you 
call them, when they are married?" asked I, awkwardly, laying 
hold of a trivial question to conceal the indignant sympathy with 
her wrongs which I did not like to express. 

"Oh, yes; the bride furnishes all that is wanted in the 
kitchen, and all the store of house-linen. If my mother had 
lived, it would have been laid by for me, as she could have 
afforded to buy it, but my stepmother will have hard enough 
work to provide for her own four little girls. However," 



362 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

-she continued, brightening up, " I can help her, for now 
I shall never marry; and my master here is just and liberal, 
and pays me sixty florins a year, which is high wages." 
(Sixty florins are about five pounds sterling.) " And now, 
good-night, sir. This cup to the left holds the tisane, that 
to the right the acorn-tea." She shaded the candle, and was 
leaving the room. I raised myself on my elbow, and called 
her back. 

"Don't go on thinking about this man," said I. "He 
was not good enough for you. You are much better un- 
married." 

" Perhaps so," she answered gravely. "But you cannot do 
him justice ; you do not know him." 

A few minutes after, I heard her soft and cautious return ; 
she had taken her shoes off, and came in her stockinged feet 
up to my bedside, shading the light with her hand. When she 
saw that my eyes were open, she laid down two letters on the 
table, close by my night-lamp. 

" Perhaps, some time, sir, you would take the trouble to 
read these letters ; you would then see how noble and clever 
P>anz really is. It is I who ought to be blamed, not he." 

No more was said that night. 

Some ^ime the next morning I read the letters. They were 
filled with vague, inflated, sentimental descriptions of his inner 
life and feelings ; entirely egotistical, and intermixed with quota- 
tions from second-rate philosophers and poets. There was, it 
must be said, nothing in them offensive to good principle or 
good feeling, however much they might be opposed to good 
taste. I was to go into the next room that afternoon for the 
first time of leaving my sick chamber. All morning I lay and 
ruminated. From time to time I thought of Thekla and Franz 
Weber. She was the strong, good, helpful character, he the 
weak and vain ; how strange it seemed that she should have 
cared for one so dissimilar ; and then I remembered the various 
happy marriages when to an outsider it seemed as if one was so 
inferior to the other that their union would have appeared a 
subject for despair if it had been looked at prospectively My 
host came in, in the midst of these meditations, bringing a great 
flowered dressing-gown, lined with flannel, and the embroidered 
smoking-cap which he evidently considered as belonging to 
this Indian-looking robe. They had been his father's, he told 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. ^'^.^ 

me, and as he helped me to dress he went on with his communi- 
cations on small family matters. His inn was flourishing ; 
the numbers increased every year of those who came to see the 
church at Heppenheim — the church which was the pride of the 
place, but which I had never yet seen. It was built by. the 
great Kaiser Karl. And there was the Castle of Starkenburg, 
too, which the Abbots of Lorsch had often defended, stalwart 
churchmen as they were, against the temporal power of the 
emperors. And Melibocus was not beyond a walk either. la 
fact, it was the work of one person to superintend the inn 
alone ; but he had his farm and his vineyards beyond, which 
■of themselves gave him enough to do. And his sister was 
■oppressed with the perpetual calls made upon her patience 
and her nerves in an inn ; and would rather go back and 
live at Worms. And his children wanted so much looking 
after. By the time he had placed himself in a condition for 
requiring my full sympathy, I had finished my slow toilette, 
and I had to interrupt his confidences, and accept the help 
of his good strong arm to lead me into the great eating-room 
■out of which my chamber opened. I had a dreamy recollec- 
tion of the vast apartment. But how pleasantly it was changed. 
There was the bare half of the room, it is true, looking as it 
had done on that first afternoon, sunless and cheerless, with 
the long, unoccupied table, and the necessary chairs for the 
possible visitors ; but round the windows that opened on the 
garden a part of the room was enclosed by the household clothes*- 
horses hung with great pieces of the blue homespun cloth of 
which the dress of the Black Forest peasant is made. This shut- 
in space was warmed by the lighted stove, as well as by the 
lowering rays of the October sun. There was a little round 
walnut table with some flowers upon it, and a great cushioned 
arm-chair, placed so as to look out upon the garden and the hills 
beyond. I felt sure that this was all Thekla's arrangement ; 
I had rather wondered that I had seen so httle of her this day. 
She had come once or twice on necessary errands into my 
room in the morning, but had appeared to be in great haste, 
and had avoided meeting my eye. Even when I had returned 
the letters, which she had intrusted to me with so evident a 
purpose of placing the writer in my good opinion, she had 
never inquired as to how far they had answered her design ; 
she had merely taken them with some low word of thanks. 



364 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

and put them hurriedly into her pocket. I suppose she shrank 
from remembering how fully she had given me her confidence 
the night before, now that daylight and actual life pressed 
close around her. Besides, there surely never was any one in 
such constant request as Thekla. I did not like this estrange- 
ment, though it was the natural consequence of my improved 
health, which would daily make me less and less require 
services which seemed so urgently claimed by others. And, 
moreover, after my host left me — I fear I had cut him a little 
short in the recapitulation of his domestic difficulties, but he 
was too thorough and good-hearted a man to bear malice — I 
wanted to be amused or interested. So I rang my little hand- 
bell, hoping that Thekla would answer it, when I could have 
fallen into conversation with her, without specifying any de- 
cided want. Instead of Thekla the Fraiilein came, and I had 
to invent a wish, for I could not act as a baby, and say that I 
wanted my nurse. However, the Fraiilein was better than no 
one, so I asked her if I could have some grapes, which had 
been provided for me on every day but this, and which were 
especially grateful to my feverish palate. She was a good, 
kind woman, although, perhaps, her temper was not the best 
in the world ; and she expressed the sincerest regret as she told 
me that there were no more in the house. Like an invalid I 
fretted at my wish not being granted, and spoke out. 

*' But Thekla told me the vintage was not till the fourteenth ; 
and you have a vineyard close beyond the garden, on the slope 
of the hill out there, have you not ? " 

" Yes ; and grapes for the gathering. But perhaps the gentle- 
man does not know our laws. Until the vintage (the day of 
beginning the vintage is fixed by the Grand Duke, and adver- 
tised in the public papers) — until the vintage, all owners of 
vineyards may only go on two appointed days in every week to 
gather their grapes ; on those two days (Tuesdays and Fridays, 
this year) they must gather enough for the wants of their 
families ; and if they do not reckon rightly, and gather short 
measure, why, they have to go without. And these two last 
days the ' Half-Moon ' has been besieged with visitors, all of 
whom have asked for grapes. But to-morrow the gentle- 
man can have as many as he will ; it is the day for gathering 
them." 

"What a strange kind of paternal law," I grumbled out. 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 365 

*'Why is it so ordained? Is it to secure the owners against 
pilfering from their unfenced vineyards?" 

"I am sure I cannot tell," she replied. "Country people in 
these villages have strange customs in many ways, as I dare 
say the English gentleman has perceived. If he would come to 
Worms he would see a different kind of life." 

"But not a view like this," I replied, caught by a sudden 
change of light — some cloud passing away from the sun, or 
something. Right outside of the windows was, as I have so 
often said, the garden. Trained plum-trees with golden leaves, 
great bushes of purple, Michaelmas daisy, late-flowering roses, 
apple-trees, partly stripped of their rosy fruit, but still with 
enough left on their boughs to require the props set to support 
the luxuriant burden ; to the left an arbour covered over with 
honeysuckle and other sweet-smelling creepers — all bounded by 
a low grey stone wall which opened out upon the steep vine- 
yard that stretched up the hill beyond, one hill of a series rising 
higher and higher into the purple distance. " Why is there 
a rope with a bunch of straw tied in it stretched across the 
opening of the garden into the vineyard?" I inquired, as my 
eye suddenly caught upon the object. 

"It is the country way of showing that no one must pass 
along that path. To-morrow the gentleman will see it re- 
moved ; and then he shall have tlie grapes. Now I will go 
and prepare his coffee." With a curtsey, after the fashion of 
W^orms gentility, she withdrew. But an under-servant brought 
me my coffee ; and with her I could not exchange a word : 
fhe spoke in such an execrable patois. I went to bed early, 
weary and depressed. I must have fallen asleep immediately, 
for I never heard any one come to arrange my bed-side table ; 
yet in the morning I found that every usual want or wish of 
mine had been attended to. 

I was wakened by a tap at my door, and a pretty piping 
child's voice asking, in broken German, to come in. On giving 
the usual permission, Thekla entered, carrying a great lovely 
boy of two years old, or thereabouts, who had only his little 
night-shirt on, and was all flushed with sleep. He held tight 
in his hands a great cluster of muscatel and noble grapes. He 
seemed like a little Bacchus, as she carried him towards me 
with an expression of pretty loving pride upon her face as she 
looked at him. But when he came close to me — the grim. 



365 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

wasted, unshorn — he turned quick away, and hid his face in 
her neck, still grasping tight his bunch of grapes. She spoke 
to him rapidly and softly, coaxing him, as I could tell full 
well, although I could not follow her words ; and in a minute 
or two the little fellow obeyed her, and turned and stretched 
himself almost to overbalancing out of her arms, and half- 
dropped the fruit on the bed by me. Then he clutched at 
her again, burying his face in her kerchief, and fastening his 
Httle fists in her luxuriant hair. 

"It is my master's only boy," said she, disentangling his 
fingers with quiet patience, only to have them grasp her braids 
afresh. "He is my little Max, my heart's delight, only he 
must not pull so hard. Say his ' to-meet-again,' and kiss his 
hand lovingly, and we will go." The promise of a speedy de- 
parture from my dusky room proved irresistible ; he babbled 
out his Aufwiedersehen, and kissing his chubby hand, he was 
borne away joyful and chattering fast in his infantile half-lan- 
guage. I did not see Thekla again until late afternoon, when 
she brought me in my coffee. She was not like the same 
creature as the blooming, cheerful maiden whom I had seen 
in the morning ; she looked wan and careworn, older by several 
years. 

"What is the matter, Thekla?" said I, with true anxiety as 
to what might have befallen my good, faithful nurse. 

She looked round before answering. "I have seen him,'^ 
she said. "He has been here, and the Fraulein has been so 
angry ! She says she will tell my master. Oh, it has been 
such a day ! " The poor young woman, who was usually so 
composed and self-restrained, was on the point of bursting into 
tears ; but by a strong effort she checked herself, and tried to 
busy herself with rearranging the white china cup, so as to 
place it more conveniently to my hand. 

"Come, Thekla," said I, "tell me all about it. I have 
heard loud voices talking, and I fancied something had put 
the Fraulein out ; and Lottchen looked flurried when she 
brought me my dinner. Is Franz here? How has he found 
you out ? " 

" He is here. Yes, I am sure it is he ; but four years make 
such a difference in a man ; his whole look and manner seemed 
so strange to me ; but he knew me at once, and called me all 
the old names which we used to call each other when we were 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 2>^J 

children ; and he must needs tell me how it had come to pass 
that he had not married that Swiss Anna. He said he had 
never loved her ; and that now he was going home to settle, 

and he hoped that I would come too, and" There she 

stopped short. 

"And marry him, and live at the inn at Altenahr," said I, 
smiling to reassure her, though I felt rather disappointed about 
the whole affair. 

"No," she replied. "Old Weber, his father, is dead; he 
died in debt, and Franz will have no money. And he was 
always one that needed money. Some are, you know ; and 
while I was thinking, and he was standing near me, the- 
Fraulein came in ; and — and — I don't wonder — for poor Franz 
is not a pleasant-looking man nowadays — she was very angry, 
and called me a bold, bad girl, and said she could have no 
such goings on at the 'Halbmond,' but would tell my master 
when he came home from the forest." 

" But you could have told her that you were old friends." I 
hesitated before saying the word lovers, but, after a pause, out 
it came. 

"Franz might have said so," she replied, a little stiffly. " I 
could not ; but he went off as soon as she bade him. He went 
to the ' Adler ' over the way, only saying he would come for 
my answer to-morrow morning. I think it was he that should 
have told her what we were — neighbours' children and early 
friends — not have left it all to me. Oh," said she, clasping her 
hands tight together, "she will make such a story of it to my 
master." 

"Never mind," said I, "tell the master I want to see him, 
as soon as he comes in from the forest, and trust me to set 
him right before the Fraulein has the chance to set him wrong." 

She looked up at me gratefully, and went away without any 
more words. Presently, the fine burly figure of my host stood 
at the opening to my enclosed sitting-room. He was there, 
three-cornered hat in hand, looking tired and heated as a man 
does after a hard day's work, but as kindly and genial as ever, 
which is not what every man is who is called to business after 
such a day, before he has had the necessary food and rest. 

I had been reflecting a good deal on Thekla's story ; I could 
not quite interpret her manner to-day to my full satisfaction ; 
but vet the love which had i^rown with her growth, must 



368 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

assuredly have been called forth by her lover's sudden re- 
appearance ; and I was inclined to give him some credit for 
having broken off an engagement to Swiss Anna, which had 
promised so many worldly advantages ; and, again, I had con- 
sidered that if he was a little weak and sentimental, it was 
Thekla v^'ho would marry him by her own free will, and per- 
haps she had sense and quiet resolution enough for both. So 
I gave the heads of the little history I have told you to my 
good friend and host, adding that I should hke to have a man's 
opinion of this man ; but that if he were not an absolute good- 
for-nothing, and if Thekla still loved him, as I believed, I 
would try and advance them the requisite money towards 
establishing themselves in the hereditary inn at Altenahr. 

Such was the romantic ending to Thekla's sorrows I had 
been planning and brooding over for the last hour. As I 
narrated my tale, and hinted at the possible happy conclusion 
that might be in store, my host's face changed. The ruddy 
colour faded, and his look became almost stern — certainly very 
grave in expression. It was so unsympathetic, that I instinc- 
tively cut my words short. When I had done, he paused a 
little, and then said, "You would wish me to learn all I can 
respecting this stranger now at the 'Adler,' and give you the 
impression I receive of the fellow." 

" Exactly so," said I. "I want to learn all I can about him 
for Thekla's sake." 

" For Thekla's sake I will do it," he gravely repeated. 
"And come to me to-night, even if I am gone to bed? " 
" Not so," he replied. " You must give me all the time yon 
can in a matter like this." 

" But he will come for Thekla's answer in the morning." 
" Before he comes you shall know all I can learn." 
I was resting during the fatigues of dressing the next day, 
when my host tapped at my door. He looked graver and 
sterner than I had ever seen him do before. He sat down 
almost before I had begged him to do so. 

"He is not worthy of her," he said. " He drinks brandy 
right hard ; he boasts of his success at play, and "—here he 
set his teeth hard — "he boasts of the women who have loved 
him. In a village like this, sir, there are always those who 
spend their evenings in the gardens of the inns ; and this man, 
after he had drank his fill, made no secrets. It needed no 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 369 

spying to find out what he was, else I should not have been 
the one to do it." 

" Thekla must be told of this," said I. "She is not the 
woman to love any one whom she cannot respect." 

Hcrr Miiller laughed a low, bitter laugh, quite unlike himself. 
Then he replied — 

"As for that matter, sir, you are young; you have had no 
great experience of women. From what my sister tells me 
there can be little doubt of Thekla's feeling towards him. She 
found them standing together by the window — his arm round 
Thekla's waist, and whispering in her ear ; and, to do the 
maiden justice, she is not the one to suffer such familiarities 
from every one. No," continued he, still in the same con- 
temptuous tone, "you'll find she will make excuses for his 
faults and vices ; or else, which is perhaps more likely, she will 
not believe your story, though I who tell it you can vouch for 
the truth of every word I say." He turned short away and 
left the room. Presently I saw his stalwart figure in the hill- 
side vineyard, before my windows, scaling the steep ascent 
with long, regular steps, going to the forest beyond. I w^as 
otherwise occupied than in watching his progress during the 
next hour. At the end of that time he re-entered my room, 
looking heated and slightly tired, as if he had been walking 
fast or labouring hard ; but with the cloud off his brows, and 
the kindly hght shining once again out of his honest eyes. 

"I ask your pardon, sir," he began, "for troubling you 
afresh. I believe I was possessed by the devil this morning. 
I have been thinking it over. One has, perhaps, no right to 
rule for another person's happiness. To have such a " — here 
the honest fellow choked a little — "such a woman as Thekla 
to love him ought to raise any man. Besides, I am no judge 
for him or for her. I have found out this morning that I love 
her myself ; and so the end of it is, that if you, sir, who are 
so kind as to interest yourself in the matter, and if you think 
it is really her heart's desire to marry this man — which ought 
to be his salvation both for earth and heaven — I shall be very 
glad to go halves with you in any plan for setting them up 
in the inn at Altenahr ; only allow me to see that whatever 
money we advance is well and legally tied up, so that it is 
secured to her. And be so kind as to take no notice of what 
I have said about my having found out that I have loved her. 



370 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENKEIM. 

I named it as a kind of apology for my hard words this morn- 
ing, and as a reason why I was not a fit judge of what was 
best." He had hurried on so that I could not have stopped 
his eager speaking even had I wished to do so ; but I was 
too much interested in the revelation of what was passing in 
his brave tender heart to desire to stop him. Now, however, 
his rapid words tripped each other up, and his speech ended 
in an unconscious sigh. 

"But," I said, "since you were here Thekla has come 
to me, and we have had a long talk. She speaks now as 
openly to me as she would if I were her brother ; with sensible 
frankness, where frankness is wise — with modest reticence, 
where confidence would be unbecoming. She came to ask 
me if I thought it her duty to marry this fellow, whose very 
appearance, changed for the worse, as she says it is, since 
she last saw him four years ago, seemed to have repelled 
her." 

"She could let him put his arm round her waist yesterday," 
said Herr Miiller, with a return of his morning's surliness. 

" And she would marry him now if she could believe it to be 
her duty. For some reason of his own this Franz Weber has 
tried to work upon this feeling of hers. He said it would be 
the saving of him." 

"As if a man had not strength enough in him — a man who is 
good for aught — to save himself, but needed a woman to pull 
him through life." 

"Nay," I replied, hardly able to keep from smiling, "you 
yourself said, not five minutes ago, that her marrying him might 
be his salvation both for earth and heaven." 

"That was when I thought she loved the fellow," he answered 
quick. " Now but what did you say to her, sir?" 

*' I told her, what I believe to be as true as gospel, that as she 
owned she did not love him any longer, now his real self had 
come to displace his remembrance, that she would be sinning in 
marrying him — doing evil that possible good might come. I 
was clear myself on this point, though I should have been 
perplexed how to advise if her love had still continued." 

" And what answer did she make? " 

" She ^^•ent over the history of their lives. She was pleading 
against her wishes to satisfy her conscience. She said that all 
along through their childhood she had been his strength ; that 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 37 1 

while under her personal influence he had been negatively good ; 
away from her, he had fallen into mischief" 

" Not to say vice," put in Herr Miiller. 

"And now he came to her penitent, in sorrow, desirous of 
amendment, asking her for the love she seems to have considered 
as tacitly plighted to him in years gone by " 

"And which he has slighted and insulted. I hope you 
told her of his words and conduct last night in the ' Adler ' 
gardens ? " 

"No; I kept myself to the general principle, which, I am 
sure, is a true one. I repeated it in different forms ; for 
the idea of the duty of self-sacrifice had taken strong posses- 
sion of her fancy. Perhaps, if I had failed in setting her 
notion of her duty in the right aspect, I might have had 
recourse to the statement of facts, which would have pained 
her severely, but would have proved to her how little his 
words of penitence and promises of amendment were to be 
trusted to." 

"And it ended?" 

" Ended by her being quite convinced that she would be doing 
wrong instead of right if she married a man whom she had 
entirely ceased to love, and that no real good could come from 
a course of action based on wrongdoing." 

" That is right and true," he replied, his face broadening into 
happiness again. 

" But she says she must leave your service, and go elsewhere." 

" Leave my service she shall ; go elsewhere she shall not." 

" I cannot tell what you may have the power of inducing her 
to do ; but she seems to me very resolute." 

"Why?" said he, firing round at me, as if I had made her 
resolute. 

"She says your sister spoke to her before the maids of the 
household, and before some of the townspeople, in a way that 
she could not stand ; and that you yourself, by your manner 
to her last night, showed how she had lost your respect. She 
added, with her face of pure maidenly truth, that he had come 
into such close contact with her only the instant before your 
sister had entered the room." 

"With your leave, sir," said Herr Muller, turning towards 
the door, " I will go and set all that right at once." 

It was easier said than done. When I next saw Thekla, 



372 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

her eyes were swollen up with crying, but she was silent, 
almost defiant towards me. A look of resolute determination 
had settled down upon her face. I learnt afterwards that 
parts of my conversation with Herr Miiller had been in- 
judiciously quoted by him in the talk he had had with 
her I thought I would leave her to herself, and wait till 
she unburdened herself of the feelings of unjust resentment 
towards me. But it was days before she spoke to me with 
anything like her former frankness. I had heard all about it 
from my host long before. 

He had gone to her straight on leaving me ; and like a 
foolish, impetuous lover, had spoken out his mind and his 
wishes to her in the presence of his sister, who, it must be 
remembered, had heard no explanation of the conduct which 
had given her propriety so great a shock the day before. Herr 
Miiller thought to reinstate Thekla in his sister's good opinion 
by giving her in the Fraulein's very presence the highest possible 
mark of his own love and esteem. And there in the kitchen, 
where the Fraulein was deeply engaged in the hot work of 
making some delicate preserve on the stove, and ordering 
Thekla about with short, sharp displeasure in her tones, the 
master had come in, and possessing himself of the maiden's 
hand, had, to her infinite surprise — to his sister's infinite 
indignation — made her the offer of his heart, his wealth, his 
life ; had begged of her to marry him. I could gather from 
his account that she had been in a state of trembling discom- 
fiture at first ; she had not spoken, but had twisted her hand 
out of his, and had covered her face with her apron. And 
then the Fraulein had burst forth — "accursed words," he 
called her speech. Thekla uncovered her face to listen — 
to listen to the end — to listen to the passionate recrimination 
between the brother and the sister. And then she went up 
close to the angry Fraulein, and had said, quite quietly, but 
with a manner of final determination which had evidently 
sunk deep into her suitor's heart, and depressed him into 
hopelessness, that the Fraulein had no need to disturb herself; 
that on this very day she had been thinking of marrying 
another man, and that her heart was not like a room to let, 
into which as one tenant went out another might enter. 
Nevertheless, she felt the master's goodness. He had always 
treated her well from the time when she had entered the 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 373 

house as his servant. And she should be sorry to leave 
him ; sorry to leave the children, very sorry to leave Uttle 
Max ; yes, she should even be sorry to leave the Fraulein, 
who was a good woman, only a little too apt to be hard 
on other women. But she had already been that very 
day and deposited her warning at the police office ; the 
busy time would be soon over, and she should be glad to 
leave their service on All Saints' Day. Then (he thought) 
she had felt inclined to cry, for she suddenly braced her- 
self up, and said, yes, she should be very glad ; for some- 
how, though they had been kind to her, she had been very 
unhappy at Heppenheim ; and she would go back to her 
home for a time, and see her old father and kind step- 
mother, and her nursling half-sister Ida, and be among her 
own people again. 

I could see it was this last part that most of all rankled in 
Herr Miiller's mind. In all probability Franz Weber was making 
his way back to Altenahr too ; and the bad suspicion would 
keep welling up that some lingering feeling for her old lover 
and disgraced playmate was making her so resolute to leave 
and return to Altenahr. 

For some days after this I was the confidant of the whole 
household, excepting Thekla. She, poor creature, looked miser- 
able enough ; but the hardy, defiant expression was always on 
her face. Lottchen spoke out freely enough ; the place would 
not be worth having if Thekla left it ; it was she who had the 
head for everything, the patience for everything ; who stood 
between all the under-servants and the Fraulein's tempers. 
As for the children, poor motherless children ! Lottchen was 
sure that the master did not know what he was doing when 
he allowed his sister to turn Thekla away — and all for what? 
for having a lover, as every girl had who could get one. Why,^ 
the little boy Max slept in the room which Lottchen shared 
with Thekla ; and she heard him in the night as quickly as if 
she was his mother ; when she had been sitting up with me, 
when I was so ill, Lottchen had had to attend to him ; and 
it was weary work after a hard day to have to get up and 
soothe a teething child ; she knew she had been cross enough 
sometimes ; but Thekla was always good and gentle with him, 
however tired she was. And as Lottchen left the room I 
could hear her repeating that she thought she should leave 



374 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

when Thekla went, for that her place would not be worth 
having. 

Even the Fraulein had her word of regret — regret mingled 
with self-justification. She thought she had been quite right 
in speaking to Thekla for allowing such familiarities ; how 
was she to know that the man was an old friend and play- 
mate? He looked like a right profligate good-for-nothing. 
And to have a servant take up her scolding as an unpardon- 
able offence, and persist in quitting her place, just when she 
had learnt all her work, and was so useful in the household 
— so useful that the Fraulein could never put up with any 
fresh, stupid house-maiden ; but, sooner than take the trouble 
of teaching the new servant where everything was, and how 
to give out the stores if she was busy, she would go back to 
Worms. For, after all, housekeeping for a brother was thank- 
less work ; there was no satisfying men ; and Heppenheim was 
but a poor ignorant village compared to Worms. 

She must have spoken to her brother about her intention 
of leaving him and returning to her former home ; indeed, a 
feeling of coolness had evidently grown up between the brother 
and sister during these latter days. When one evening Herr 
Miiller brought in his pipe, and, as his custom had sometimes 
been, sat down by my stove to smoke, he looked gloomy and 
annoyed. I let him puff away, and take his own time. At 
iength he began — 

" I have rid the village of him at last. I could not bear to 
have him here disgracing Thekla with speaking to her when- 
ever she went to the vineyard or the fountain. I don't believe 
she likes him a bit." 

" No more do I," I said. He turned on me — 

"Then why did she speak to him at all? Why cannot she 
like an honest man who likes her? Why is she so bent on 
going home to Altenahr?" 

"She speaks to him because she has known him from a 
child, and has a faithful pity for one whom she has known 
so innocent, and who is now so lost in all good men's regard. 
As for not liking an honest man (though I may have my own 
opinion about that), liking goes by fancy, as we say in English ; 
and Altenahr is her home; her father's house is at Altenahr, 
as you knew." 

"I wonder if he will go there," quoth Herr Muller, after 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 375 

two or three more puffs. * ' He was fast at the ' Adler ; ' he 
could not pay his score, so he kept on staying here, saying 
that lie should receive a letter from a friend with money in a 
day or two ; lying in wait, too, for Thekla, who is well known 
and respected all through Heppenheim : so his being an old 
friend of hers made him have a kind of standing. I went in 
this morning and paid his score, on condition that he left the 
place this day ; and he left the village as merrily as a cricket, 
caring no more for Thekla than for the Kaiser who built our 
church ; for he never looked back at the ' Halbmond,' but went 
whisthng down the road." 

** That is a good riddance," said I. 

"Yes. But my sister says she must return to Worms. And 
Lottchen has given notice ; she says the place will not be worth 
having when Thekla leaves. I wish I could give notice too." 

" Try Thekla again." 

" Not I," said he, reddening. " It would seem now as if I 
only wanted her for a housekeeper. Besides, she avoids me at 
every turn, and will not even look at me. I am sure she bears 
me some ill-will about that ne'er-do-well." 

There was silence between us for some time, which he at 
length broke. 

* ' The pastor has a good and comely daughter. Her 
mother is a famous housewife. They often have asked me to 
come to the parsonage and smoke a pipe. When the vintage 
is over, and I am less busy, I think I will go there and look 
about me." 

"When is the vintage? asked I. "I hope it will take 
place soon, for I am growing so well and strong I fear I 
must leave you shortly ; but I should like to see the vintage 
first." 

"Oh, never fear! you must not travel yet awhile; and 
Government has fixed the grape-gathering to begin on the 
fourteenth." 

' ' What a paternal Government ! How does it know when 
the grapes will be ripe ? Why cannot every man fix his own 
time for gathering his own grapes?" 

"That has never been our way in Germany. There are 
people employed by the Government to examine the vines, 
and report when the grapes are ripe. It is necessary to 
make laws about it ; for, as you must have seen, there is 



376 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

nothing but the fear of the law to protect our vineyards 
and fruit-trees ; there are no enclosures along the Berg- 
Strasse, as you tell me you have in England ; but, as people 
are only allowed to go into the vineyards on stated days, 
no one, under pretence of gathering his own produce, can 
stray into his neighbour's grounds and help himself, without 
some of the duke's foresters seeing him." 

" Well," said I, "to each country its own laws." 

I think it was on that very evening that Thekla came in 
for something. She stopped arranging the table-cloth and 
the flowers, as if she had something to say, yet did not know 
how to begin. At length I found that her sore, hot heart 
wanted some sympathy ; her hand was against every one's, and 
she fancied every one had turned against her. She looked 
up at me, and said, a little abruptly — 

" Does the gentleman know that I go on the fifteenth?" 

"So soon?" said I, with surprise. "I thought you were 
to remain here till All Saints' Day." 

"So I should have done — so I must have done — if the 
Fraulein had not kindly given me leave to accept of a 
place — a very good place, too — of housekeeper to a widow- 
lady at Frankfort. It is just the sort of situation I have 
always wished for. I expect I shall be so happy and com- 
fortable there." 

" Methinks the lady doth protest too much," came into my 
mind. I saw she expected me to doubt the probabihty of her 
happiness, and was in a defiant mood. 

"Of course," said I, "you would hardly have wished to 
leave Heppenheim if you had been happy here ; and every 
new place always promises fair, whatever its performance 
may be. But wherever you go, remember you have always 
a friend in me." 

"Yes," she replied, "I think you are to be trusted. 
Though, from my experience, I should say that of very few- 
men." 

"You have been unfortunate," I answered: "many men 
would say the same of women." 

She thought a moment, and then said, in a changed tone 
of voice, " The P'raulein here has been much more friendly 
and helpful of these late days than her brother ; yet I have 
served him faithfully, and have cared for his little Max as 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 377 

though he were my own brother. But this morning he spoke 
to me for the first time for many days ; he met me in the 
passage, and, suddenly stopping, he said he was glad I had 
met with so comfortable a place, and that I was at full hberty 
to go whenever I liked : and then he went quickly on, never 
waiting for my answer." 

"And what was wrong in that? It seems to me he was 
trying to make you feel entirely at your ease, to do as you 
thought best, without regard to his own interests," 

"Perhaps so. It is silly, I know," she continued, turning 
full on me her grave, innocent eyes; "but one's vanity 
suffers a little when every one is so willing to part with 
one." 

" Thekla ! I owe you a great debt — let me speak to you 
openly. I know that your master wanted to marry you, and 
that you refused him. Do not deceive yourself. You are sorry 
for that refusal now? " 

She kept her serious look fixed upon me ; but her face 
and throat reddened all over. 

"No," said she, at length; "I am not sorry. What can 
you think I am made of; having loved one man ever since 
I was a little child until a fortnight ago, and now just as 
ready to love another? I know you do not rightly consider 
what you say, or I should take it as an insult." 

"You loved an ideal man; he disappointed you, and you 
clung to your remembrance of him. He came, and the 
reality dispelled all illusions." 

" I do not understand philosophy," said she. " I only know 
that I think that Herr MuUer had lost all respect for me from 
what his sister had told him ; and I know that I am going 
away ; and I trust I shall be happier in Frankfort than I have 
been here of late days." So saying, she left the room. 

I was wakened up on the morning of the fourteenth by 
the merry ringing of church bells, and the perpetual firing 
and popping off of guns and pistols. But all this was over 
by the time I was up and dressed, and seated at breakfast 
in my partitioned room. It was a perfect October day ; 
the dew not yet off the blades of grass, glistening on the 
delicate gossamer webs, which stretched from flower to flower 
in the garden, lying in the morning shadow of the house. 
But beyond the garden, on the sunny hill-side, men, women ^ 



378 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

and children were clambering up the vineyards like ants — 
busy, irregular in movement, clustering together, spreading 
wide apart — I could hear the shrill merry voices as I sat — 
and all along the valley, as far as I could see, it was much 
the same ; for every one filled his house for the day of 
the vintage, that great annual festival. Lottchen, who had 
brought in my breakfast, was all in her Sunday best, having 
risen early to get her work done and go abroad to gather 
grapes. Bright colours seemed to abound ; I could see dots of 
scarlet, and crimson, and orange through the fading leaves ; it 
was not a day to languish in the house ; and I was on the 
point of going out by myself, when Herr Miiller came in 
to offer me his sturdy arm, and help me in walking to the 
vineyard. We crept through the garden, scented with late 
flowers and sunny fruit — we passed through the gate I had so 
often gazed at from the easy-chair, and were in the busy 
vineyard ; great baskets lay on the grass already piled nearly 
full of purple and yellow grapes. The wine made from these 
was far from pleasant to my taste ; for the best Rhine wine is 
made from a smaller grape, growing in closer, harder clusters ; 
but the larger and less profitable grape is by far the most pictur- 
esque in Its mode of growth, and far the best to eat into the 
bargain. Wherever we trod, it was on fragrant, crushed vine- 
leaves ; every one we saw had his hands and face stained with 
the purple juice. Presently I sat down on a sunny bit of grass, 
and my host left me to go further afield, to look after the more 
distant vineyards. I watched his progress. After he left me, 
he took off coat and waiscoat, displaying liis snowy shirt and 
gaily-worked braces ; and presently he was as busy as any one. 
I looked down on the village ; the grey and orange and crimson 
roofs lay glowing in the noonday sun. I could see down into 
the streets ; but they were all empty — even the old people came 
toiling up the hill-side to share in the general festivity. 
Lottchen had brought up cold dinners for a regiment of men ; 
every one came and helped himself. Thekla was there, leading 
the little Karoline, and helping the toddling steps of Max ; but 
she kept aloof from me ; for I knew, or suspected, or had 
probed too much. She alone looked sad and grave, and spoke 
so little, even to her friends, that it was evident to see that she 
was trying to wean herself finally from the place. But I could 
see that she had lost her short, defiant manner. What she did 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 379 

say was kindly and gently spoken. The Fraulein came out late 
in the morning, dressed, I suppose, in the latest Worms fashion 
— quite different to anything I had ever seen before. She came 
up to me, and talked very graciously to me for some time. 

"Here comes the proprietor (squire) and his lady, and their 
dear children. See, the vintagers have tied bunches of the 
finest grapes on to a stick, heavier than the children, or even 
the lady can carry. Look ! look ! how he bows ! — one can tell 
he has been an attach^ at Vienna. That is the Court way of 
bowing there — holding the hat right down before them, and 
bending the back at right angles. How graceful ! And here is 
the doctor 1 I thought he would spare time to come up here. 
Well, doctor, you will go all the more cheerfully to your next 
patient for having been up into the vineyards. Nonsense, 
about grapes making other patients for you. Ah, here is the 
pastor and his wife, and the Fraulein Anna. Now, where is 
my brother, I wonder? Up in the far vineyard, I make no- 
doubt. Mr. Pastor, the view up above is far finer than what 
it is here, and the best grapes grow there ; shall I accompany 
you and madame, and the dear Fraulein? The gentleman will 
excuse me." 

I was left alone. Presently I thought I would walk a little 
farther, or at any rate change my position. I rounded a corner 
in the pathway, and there I found Thekla, watching by little 
sleeping Max. He lay on her shawl ; and over his head she 
had made an arching canopy of broken vine-branches, so that 
the great leaves threw their cool, flickering shadows on his face. 
He was smeared all over with grape-juice, his sturdy fingers 
grasped a half-eaten bunch even in his sleep. Thekla was 
keeping Lina quiet by teaching her how to weave a garland for 
her head out of field-flowers and autumn-tinted leaves. The 
maiden sat on the ground, with her back to the valley beyond, 
the child kneeling by her, watching the busy fingers with eager 
intentness. Both looked up as I drew near, and we exchanged 
a few words. 

" Where is the master?" I asked. " I promised to await his 
return ; he wished to give me his arm down the wooden steps ; 
but I do not see him." 

" He is in the higher vineyard," said Thekla quietly, but not 
looking round in that direction. " He will be some time there, 
I should think. He went with the pastor and his wife : he will 



380 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

have to speak to his labourers and his friends. My arm is 
strong ; and I can leave Max in Lina's care for five minutes. 
If you are tired, and want to go back, let me help you down 
the steps ; they are steep and slippery." 

I had turned to look up the valley. Three or four hundred 
yards off, in the higher vineyard, walked the dignified pastor, 
and his homely decorous wife. Behind came the Fraulein 
Anna, in her short-sleeved Sunday gown, daintily holding a 
parasol over her luxuriant brown hair. Close behind her came 
Herr Miiller, stopping now to speak to his men — again, to cull 
-xDut a bunch of grapes to tie on to the Fraulein's stick ; and by 
my feet sate the proud serving-maid in her country dress, 
waiting for my answer, with serious, upturned eyes, and sad, 
composed face. 

" No, I am much obliged to you, Thekla ; and if I did not 
feel so strong, I would have thankfully taken your arm. But I 
only wanted to leave a message for the master, just to say that 
I have gone home." 

" Lina will give it to the father when he comes down," 
said Thekla. 

I went slowly down into the garden. The great labour of 
the day was over, and the younger part of the population had 
returned to the village, and were preparing the fireworks and 
pistol-shootings for the evening. Already one or two of those 
well-known German carts (in the shape of a V) were standing 
near the vineyard gates, the patient oxen meekly waiting while 
basketful after basketful of grapes were being emptied into the 
leaf-lined receptacle. 

As I sat down in ray easy-chair close to the open window 
through which I had entered, I could see the men and women 
on the hill-side drawing to a centre, and all stand round the 
pastor, bareheaded, for a minute or so. I guessed that some 
words of holy thanksgiving were being said, and I wished that 
I had stayed to hear them, and mark my especial gratitude for 
having been spared to see that day. Then I heard the distant 
voices, the deep tones of the men, the shriller pipes of women 
and children, join in the German harvest-hymn, which is gene- 
rally sung on such occasions ; * then silence, while I concluded 

* Wir pfliigen und wir streuen 
Den Saamen auf das Land ; 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 38 1 

that a blessing was spoken by the pastor, with outstretched 
arms ; and then they once more dispersed, some to the village, 
some to finish their labours for the day among the vines. I saw 
Thekla coming through the garden with Max in her arms, and 
Lina clinging to her woollen skirts. Thekla made for my open 
window ; it was rather a shorter passage into the house than 
round by the door. "I may come through, may I not?" she 
asked softly. "I fear Max is not well ; I cannot understand 
his look, and he wakened up so strange ! " She paused to let 
me see the child's face ; it was flushed almost to a crimson look 
of heat, and his breathing was laboured and uneasy, his eyes 
half-open and filmy. 

"Something is wrong, I am sure," said I. "I don't know 
anything about children, but he is not in the least like himself." 

She bent down and kissed the cheek so tenderly that she 
would not have bruised the petal of a rose. " Heart's darling," 
she murmured. He quivered all over at her touch, working his 
fingers in an unnatural kind of way, and ending with a convulsive 
twitching all over his body. Lina began to cry at the grave, 
anxious look on our faces. 

"You had better call the Fraulein to look at him," said I. 
"I feel sure he ought to have a doctor; I should say he was 
going to have a fit." 

"The Fraulein and the master are gone to the pastor's for 
coffee, and Lottchen is in the higher vineyard, taking the men 
their bread and beer. Could you find the kitchen-girl, or old 
Karl? he will be in the stables, I think. I must lose no time." 
Almost without waiting for my reply, she had passed through 
the room, and in the empty house I could hear her firm, careful 
footsteps going up the stair ; Lina's pattering beside her ; and 
the one voice wailing, the other speaking low comfort, 

I was tired enough, but this good family had treated me too 



Das Wachsen und Gedeihen 
Steht, in des Hochsten Hand. 
Er sendet Thau und Regen. 
Und Sonn und Mondenschein ; 
Von Ihm kommt aller Segen, 
Von unserm Gott allein : 
Alle g:ute Gabe kommt her 
Von Gott dem Herrn, 
Drum dankt und hofft auf Ihm. 



382 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

much like one of their own for me not to do what I could in 
such a case as this. I made my way out into the street, for the 
first time since I had come to the house on that memorable 
-evening six weeks ago. I bribed the first person I met to 
guide me to the doctor's, and sent him straight down to the 
" Halbmond," not staying to listen to the thorough scolding 
he fell to giving me ; then on to the parsonage, to tell the 
master and the Fraulein of the state of things at home. 

I was sorry to be the bearer of bad news into such a festive 
chamber as the pastor's. There they sat, resting after heat 
and fatigue, each in their best gala dress, the table spread 
with "Dicker-milch," potato-salad, cakes of various shapes 
and kinds — all the dainty cates dear to the German palate. 
The pastor was talking to Herr Miiller, who stood near the 
pretty young Fraulein Anna, in her fresh white chemisette, 
with her round white arms, and her youthful coquettish airs, 
as she prepared to pour out the coffee ; our Fraulein was 
talking busily to the Frau Mama ; the younger boys and girls 
of the family filling up the room. A ghost would have startled 
the assembled party less than I did, and would probably have 
been more welcome, considering the news I brought. As he 
listened, the master caught up his hat and went forth, without 
apology or farewell. Our Fraulein made up for both, and 
questioned me fully ; but now she, I could see, was in haste 
to go, although restrained by her manners, and the kind- 
hearted Frau Pastorin soon set her at liberty to follow her 
incHnation. As for me I was dead beat, and only too glad 
to avail myself of the hospitable couple's pressing request that 
I would stop and share their meal. Other magnates of the 
village came in presently, and relieved me of the strain of 
keeping up a German conversation about nothing at all with 
entire strangers. The pretty Fraulein's face had clouded over 
a little at Herr Miiller's sudden departure ; but she was soon 
as bright as could be, giving private chase and sudden little 
scoldings to her brothers, as they made raids upon the dainties 
under her charge. After I was duly rested and refreshed, I 
took my leave ; for I, too, had my quieter anxieties about the 
sorrow in the Miiller family. 

The only person I could see at the "Halbmond" was 
Lottchen ; every one else was busy about the poor little Max, 
who was passing from one fit into another. I told Lottchen 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 383 

to ask the doctor to come in and see me before he took his 
leave for the night, and tired as I was, I kept up till after his 
visit, though it was very late before he came ; I could see from 
his face how anxious he was. He would give me no opinion 
as to the child's chances of recovery, from which I guessed that 
he had not much hope. But when I expressed my fear he cut 
me very short. 

''' The truth is, you know nothing about it ; no more do T, 
for that matter. It is enough to try any man, much less a 
father, to hear his perpetual moans — not that he is conscious 
of pain, poor httle worm ; but if she stops for a moment in 
her perpetual carrying him backwards and forwards, he plains 
so piteously it is enough to — enough to make a man bless the 
Lord who never led him into the pit of matrimony. To see 
the father up there, following her as she walks up and down 
the room, the child's head over her shoulder, and Miiller trying 
to make the heavy eyes recognise the old familiar ways of play, 
and the chirruping sounds which he can scarce make for crying 

1 shall be here to-morrow early, though before that either 

lifeW death will have come without the old doctor's help." 

All night long I dreamt my feverish dream — of the vineyard — 
the carts, which held little coffins instead of baskets of grapes — 
of the pastor's daughter, who would pull the dying child out of 
Thekla's arms ; it was a bad, weary night ! I slept long into 
the morning ; the broad daylight filled my room, and yet no one 
had been near to waken me ! Did that mean life or death? I 
got up and dressed as fast as I could ; for I was aching all over 
with the fatigue of the day before. Out into the sitting-room ; 
the table was laid for breakfast, but no one was there. I passed 
into the house beyond, up the stairs, blindly seeking for the room 
where I might know whether it was life or death. At the door 
of a room I found Lottchen crying ; at the sight of me in that 
unwonted place she started, and began some kind of apology, 
broken both by tears and smiles, as she told me that the doctor 
said the danger was over — past, and that Max was sleeping a 
gentle peaceful slumber in Thekla's arms — arms that had held 
him all through the livelong night. 

" Look at him, sir ; only go in softly ; it is a pleasure to see 
the child to-day ; tread softly, sir." 

She opened the chamber-door. I could see Thekla sitting, 
propped up by cushions and stools, holding her heavy burden. 



384 SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 

and bending over him with a look of tenderest love. Not far off 
stood the Fraulein, all disordered and tearful, stirring or season- 
ing some hot soup, whUe the master stood by her impatient. 
As soon as it was cooled or seasoned enough he took the basin 
and went to Thekla, and said something very low ; she lifted up 
her head, and I could see her face ; pale, weary with watching, 
but with a soft, peaceful look upon it, which it had not worn for 
weeks. Fritz Mtiller began to feed her, for her hands were 
occupied in holding his child ; I could not help remembering 
Mrs. Inchbald's pretty description of Dorriforth's anxiety in 
feeding Miss Milner ; she compares it, if I remember rightly, 
to that of a tender-hearted boy, caring for his darhng bird, the 
loss of which would embitter all the joys of his holidays. We 
closed the door without noise, so as not to waken the sleeping 
child. Lottchen brought me my coffee and bread ; she was 
ready either to laugh or to weep on the slightest occasion. I 
could not tell if it was in innocence or mischief she asked me 
the following question — 

" Do you think Thekla will leave to-day, sir?" 

In the afternoon I heard Thekla's step behind my extemporary 
screen. I knew it quite well. She stopped for a moment before 
emerging into my view. 

She was trying to look as composed as usual, but, perhaps 
because her steady nerves had been shaken by her night's watch- 
ing, she could not help faint touches of dimples at the corners 
of her mouth, and her eyes were veiled from any inquisitive look 
by their drooping lids. 

"I thought you would hke to know that the doctor says 
Max is quite out of danger now. He will only require 
care." 

"Thank you, Thekla ; Doctor has been in already this 

afternoon to tell me so, and I am truly glad." 

She went to the window, and looked out for a moment. Many 
people were in the vineyards again to-day ; although we, in our 
household anxiety, had paid them but little heed. Suddenly she 
turned round into the room, and I saw that her face was crimson 
with blushes. In another instant Herr Mtiller entered by the 
window. 

" Has she told you, sir?" said he, possessing himself of her 
hand, and looking all aglow with happiness. " Hast thou told 
our good friend?" addressing her. 



SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM. 385 

" No. I was going to tell him, but I did not know how to 
begin." 

"Then I will prompt thee. Say after me — 'I have been a 
wilful, foolish woman ' " 

She wrenched her hand out of his, half-laughing — "I am a 
foolish woman, for I have promised to marry him. But he is a 
still more foolish man, for he wishes to marry me. That is what 
I say." 

" And I have sent Babette to Frankfort with the pastor. He 
is going there, and will explain all to Frau v. Schmidt ; and 
Babette will serve her for a time. When Max is well enough to 
have the change of air the doctor prescribes for him, thou shalt 
take him to Altenahr, and thither will I also go ; and become 
known to thy people and thy father. And before Christmas the 
gentleman here shall dance at our wedding." 

" I must go home to England, dear friends, before many days 
are over. Perhaps we may travel together as far as Remagen. 
Another year I will come back to Heppenheim and see you." 

As I planned it, so it was. We left Heppenheim all together 
on^a lovely All-Saints' day. The day before — the day of All- 
Souls — I had watched Fritz and Thekla lead little Lina up to 
the Acre of God, the Field of Rest, to hang the wreath of im- 
mortelles on her mother's grave. Peace be with the dead and 
the living. 



■m 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 



CHAPTER L 

WHEN Death is present in a household on a Christmas 
Day, the very contrast between the time as it now is, 
and the day as it has often been, gives a poignancy to sorrow 
— a more utter blankness to the desolation. James Leigh 
died just as the far-away bells of Rochdale Church were ring- 
ing for morning service on Christmas Day, 1836. A few 
minutes before his death, he opened his already glazing eyes, 
and made a sign to his wife, by the faint motion of his lips, 
that he had yet something to say. She stooped close down, 
and caught the broken whisper, "I forgive her, Annie! May 
God forgive me ! " 

" Oh, my love, my dear ! only get well, and I will never cease 
showing my thanks for those words. May God in heaven bless 
thee for saying them. Thou'rt not so restless, my lad ! may be 
—Oh, God ! " 

For even while she spoke he died. 

They had been two-and-twenty years man and wife ; for 
nineteen of those years their life had been as calm and happy 
as the most perfect uprightness on the one side, and the most 
complete confidence and loving submission on the other, could 
make it. Milton's famous line might have been framed and 
hung up as the rule of their married life, for he was truly the 
interpreter, who stood between God and her ; she would have 
considered herself wicked if she had ever dared even to think 
him austere, though as certainly as he was an upright man, 
so surely was he hard, stern, and inflexible. But for three 
years the moan and the murmur had never been out of her 
heart ; she had rebelled against her husband as against a 
tyrant, with a hidden, sullen rebellion, which tore up the old 
386 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 2>^7 

landmarks of wifely duty and affection, and poisoned the foun- 
tains whence gentlest love and reverence had once been for 
ever springing. 

But those last blessed words replaced him on his throne in 
her heart, and called out penitent anguish for all the bitter 
estrangement of later years. It was this which made her refuse 
all the entreaties of her sons, that she would see the kind- 
hearted neighbours, who called on their way from church, to 
sympathise and condole. No ! she would stay with the dead 
husband that had spoken tenderly at last, if for three years 
he had kept silence ; who knew but what, if she had only 
been more gentle and less angrily reserved he might have 
relented earlier— and in time? 

She sat rocking herself to and fro by the side of the bed, 
while the footsteps below went in and out ; she had been 
in sorrow too long to have any violent burst of deep grief 
now ; the furrows were well w'orn in her cheeks, and the tears 
flowed quietly, if incessantly, all the day long. But when 
the^winter's night drew on, and the neighbours had gone 
away to their homes, she stole to the window, and gazed out, 
long and wistfully, over the dark grey moors. She did not 
hear her son's voice, as he spoke to her from the door, nor 
his footstep as he drew nearer. She started when he touched 
her. 

"Mother! comedown to us. There's no one but Will and 
me. Dearest mother, we do so want you." The poor lad's 
voice trembled, and he began to cry. It appeared to require 
an effort on Mrs. Leigh's part to tear herself away from the 
window, but with a sigh she complied with his request. 

The two boys (for though Will was nearly twenty-one, she 
still thought of him as a lad) had done everything in their 
power to make the house-place comfortable for her. She 
herself, in the old days before her sorrow, had never made 
a brighter fire or a cleaner hearth, ready for her husband's 
return home, than now awaited her. The tea-things were 
all put out, and the kettle was boiling ; and the boys had 
calmed their grief down into a kind of sober cheerfulness. 
They paid her every attention they could think of, but received 
little notice on her part ; she did not resist, she rather sub- 
mitted to all their arrangements ; but they did not seem to 
touch her heart. 



388 IJZZIE LEIGH. 

When tea was ended — it was merely the form of tea that had 
been gone through — Will moved the things away to the dresser. 
His mother leant back languidly in her chair. 

"Mother, shall Tom read you a chapter? He's a better 
scholar than I." 

"Ay, lad ! " said she, almost eagerly. " That's it. Read me 
the Prodigal Son. Ay, ay, lad. Thank thee." 

Tom found the chapter, and read it in the high-pitched 
voice which is customary in village schools. His mother bent 
forward, her lips parted, her eyes dilated ; her whole body 
instinct with eager attention. Will sat with his head depressed 
and hung down. He knew why that chapter had been chosen ; 
and to him it recalled the family's disgrace. When the reading 
was ended, he still hung down his head in gloomy silence. 
But her face was brighter than it had been before for the 
day. Her eyes looked dreamy, as if she saw a vision ; and 
by-and-by she pulled the Bible towards her, and, putting her 
finger underneath each word, began to read them aloud in 
a low voice to herself; she read again the words of bitter 
sorrow and deep humiliation ; but most of all, she paused 
and brightened over the father's tender reception of the repentant 
prodigal. 

So passed the Christmas evening in the Upclose Farm. 

The snow had fallen heavily over the dark waving moorland 
before the day of the funeral. The black storm-laden dome 
of heaven lay very still and close upon the white earth, as 
they carried the body forth out of the house which had known 
his presence so long as its ruling power. Two and two the 
mourners followed, making a black procession, in their winding 
march over the unbeaten snow, to Milne Row Church ; now- 
lost in some hollow of the bleak moors, now slowly climbing 
the heaving ascents. There was no long tarrying after the 
funeral, for many of the neighbours who accompanied the body 
to the grave had far to go, and the great white flakes which 
came slowly down were the boding forerunners of a heavy 
storm. One old friend alone accompanied the widow and her 
sons to their home. 

The Upclose Farm had belonged for generations to the 
Leighs ; and yet its possession hardly raised them above the 
rank of labourers. There was the house and out-buildings, 
all of an old-fashioned kind, and about seven acres of barren 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 389 

unproductive land, which they had never possessed capital 
enough to improve ; indeed, they could hardly rely upon it for 
subsistence ; and it had been customary to bring up the sons to 
some trade, such as a wheelwright's or blacksmith's. 

James Leigh had left a will in the possession of the old man 
Svho accompanied them home. He read it aloud. James had 
bequeathed the farm to his faithful wife, Anne Leigh, for her 
lifetime, and afterwards to his son William. The hundred and 
odd pounds in the savings bank was to accumulate for Thomas. 

After the reading was ended, Anne Leigh sat silent for a 
time, and then she asked to speak to Samuel Orme alone. 
The sons went into the back kitchen, and thence strolled out 
into the fields regardless of the driving snow. The brothers 
were dearly fond of each other, although they were very different 
in character. Will, the elder, was like his father, stern, reserved 
and scrupulously upright. Tom (who was ten years younger) 
was gentle and delicate as a girl, both in appearance and 
character. He had always clung to his mother and dreaded 
his father. They did not speak as they walked, for they were 
only in the habit of talking about facts, and hardly knew the 
more sophisticated language applied to the description of 
feelings. 

Meanwhile their mother had taken hold of Samuel Orme's 
arm with her trembling hand. 

" Samuel, I must let the farm — I must." 

' ' Let the farm ! What's come o'er the woman ? " 

"Oh, Samuel!" said she, her eyes swimming in tears, 
"I'm just fain to go and live in Manchester. I mun let the 
farm." 

Samuel looked, and pondered, but did not speak for some 
time. At last he said — 

" If thou hast made up thy mind, there's no speaking again 
it ; and thou must e'en go. Thou'lt be sadly pottered wi' 
Manchester ways ; but that's not my look-out. Why, thou'lt 
have to buy potatoes, a thing thou hast never done afore in 
all thy born hfe. Well ! it's not my look-out. It's rather for 
me than again me. Our Jenny is going to be married to 
Tom Higginbotham, and he was speaking of wanting a bit of 
land to begin upon. His father will be dying sometime, I 
reckon, and then he'll step into the Croft Farm. But mean- 
while " 



390 LIZZIE LEIGH. 

"Then, thou'lt let the farm," said she, still as eagerly as 
ever. 

"Ay, ay, he'll take it fast enough, I've a notion. But I'll not 
drive a bargain with thee just now ; it would not be right ; we'll 
wait a bit." 

" No ; I cannot wait ; settle it out at once." 

"Well, well; I'll speak to Will about it. I see him out 
yonder. I'll step to him and talk it over." 

Accordingly he went and joined the two lads, and, without 
more ado, began the subject to them. 

"Will, thy mother is fain to go live in Manchester, and 
covets to let the farm. Now, I'm willing to take it for Tom 
Higginbotham ; but I like to drive a keen bargain, and there 
would be no fun chaffering with thy mother just now. Let thee 
and me buckle to, my lad ! and try and cheat each other ; it will 
warm us this cold day." 

"Let the farm!" said both the lads at once, with infinite 
surprise. " Go live in Manchester ! " 

When Samuel Orme found that the plan had never before 
been named to either Will or Tom, he would have nothing to do 
with it, he said, until they had spoken to their mother. Likely 
she was " dazed" by her husband's death ; he would wait a day 
or two, and not name it to any one ; not to Tom Higginbotham 
himself, or may be he would set his heart upon it. The lads had 
better go in and talk it over with their mother. He bade them 
good day, and left them. 

Will looked very gloomy, but he did not speak till they got 
near the house. Then he said — 

"Tom, go to th' shippon, and supper the cows. I want to 
speak to mother alone." 

When he entered the house-place, she was sitting before the 
fire, looking into its embers. She did not hear him come in : 
for some time she had lost her quick perception of outward 
things. 

" Mother ! what's this about going to Manchester? " asked he. 

"Oh, lad!" said she, turning round, and speaking in a be- 
seeching tone, " I must go and seek our Lizzie. I cannot rest 
here for thinking on her. Many's the time I've left thy father 
sleeping in bed, and stole to th' window, and looked and looked 
my heart out towards Manchester, till I thought I must just set 
out and tramp over moor and moss straight away till I got there, 



-LIZZIE LEIGH. 35I 

and then lift up every downcast face till I came to our Lizzie. 
And often, when the south wind was blowing soft among the 
hollows, I've fancied (it could but be fancy, thou knowest) I 
heard her crying upon me ; and I've thought the voice came 
closer and closer, till at last it was sobbing out, ' Mother ! ' close 
to the door ; and I've stolen down, and undone the latch before 
now, and looked out into the still, black night, thinking to see 
her— and turned sick and sorrowful when I heard no living 
sound but the sough of the wind dying away. Oh, speak not to- 
me of stopping here, when she may be perishing for hunger, like 
the poor lad in the parable." And now she lifted up her voice, 
and wept aloud. 

Will was deeply grieved. He had been old enough to be told 
the family shame when, more than two years before, his father 
had^ had his letter to his daughter returned by her mistress in 
Manchester, telhng him that Lizzie had left her service some 
time — and why. He had sympathised with his father's stern 
anger; though he had thought him something hard, it is true, 
when he had forbidden his weeping, heart-broken wife to go and 
try to find her poor sinning child, and declared that henceforth 
they would have no daughter ; that she should be as one dead, 
and her name never more be named at market or at meal time, 
in blessing or in prayer. He had held his peace, with compressed 
lips and contracted brow, when the neighbours had noticed to 
him how poor Lizzie's death had aged both his father and his 
mother ; and how they thought the bereaved couple would never 
hold up their heads again. He himself had felt as if that one 
event had made him old before his time ; and had envied Tom 
the tears he had shed over poor, pretty, innocent, dead Lizzie. 
He thought about her sometimes, till he ground his teeth to- 
gether, and could have struck her down in her shame. His 
mother had never named her to him until now. 

"Mother!" said he, at last. "She may be dead. Most 
likely she is." 

" No, Will ; she is not dead," said Mrs. Leigh. " God will 
not let her die till I've seen her once again. Thou dost not 
know how I've prayed and prayed just once again to see her 
sweet face, and tell her I've forgiven her, though she's broken 
my heart — she has, Will." She could not go on for a minute 
or two for the choking sobs. "Thou dost not know that, 
or thou wouldst not say she could be dead— for God is very 



392 LIZZIE LEIGH. 

merciful, Will ; He is : He is much more pitiful than man. I 
could never ha' spoken to thy father as I did to Him — and 
yet thy father forgave her at last. The last words he said were 
that he forgave her. Thou'lt not be harder than thy father, 
Will? Do not try and hinder me going to seek her, for it's 
no use." 

Will sat very still for a long time before he spoke. At last he 
said, "I'll not hinder you. I think she's dead, but that's no 
matter." 

"She's not dead," said her mother, with low earnestness. 
Will took no notice of the interruption. 

" We will all go to Manchester for a twelvemonth, and let the 
farm to Tom Higginbotham. I'll get blacksmith's work ; and 
Tom can have good schooling for awhile, which he's always 
craving for. At the end of the year you'll come back, mother, 
and give over fretting for Lizzie, and think with me that she is 
dead — and, to my mind, that would be more comfort than to 
think of her living ; " he dropped his voice as he spoke these 
last words. She shook her head, but made no answer. He 
asked again — 

" Will you, mother, agree to this?" 

"I'll agree to it a-this-ns," said she. " If I hear and see 
nought of her for a twelvemonth, me being in Manchester look- 
ing out, I'll just ha' broken my heart fairly before the year's 
ended, and then I shall know neither love nor sorrow for her 
any more, when I'm at rest in my grave. I'll agree to that, 
Will." 

" Well, I suppose it must be so. I shall not tell Tom, mother, 
why we're flitting to Manchester. Best spare him." 

"As thou wilt," said she sadly, " so that we go, that's all." 

Before the wild daffodils were in flower in the sheltered copses 
round Upclose Farm, the Leighs were settled in their Manchester 
home ; if they could ever grow to consider that place as a home, 
where there was no garden or outbuilding, no fresh breezy outlet, 
no far-stretching view, over moor and hollow ; no dumb animals 
to be tended, and, what more than all they missed, no old haunt- 
ing memories, even though those remembrances told of sorrow^ 
and the dead and gone. 

Mrs. Leigh heeded the loss of all these things less than her 
sons. She had more spirit in her countenance than she had 
had for months, because now she had hope ; of a sad enough 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 393 

kind, to be sure, but still it was hope. She performed all her 
household duties, strange and complicated as they were, and 
bewildered as she was with all the town necessities of her new 
manner of life ; but when her house was "sided," and the boys 
come home from their work in the evening, she would put on 
her things and steal out, unnoticed, as she thought, but not 
without many a heavy sigh from Will, after she had closed the 
house-door and departed. It was often past midnight before she 
came back, pale and weary, with almost a guilty look upon her 
face ; but that face so full of disappointment and hope deferred, 
that Will had never the heart to say what he thought of the 
folly and hopelessness of the search. Night after night it was 
renewed, till days grew to weeks, and weeks to months. All 
this time Will did his duty towards her as well as he could, 
withoiit having sympathy with her. He stayed at home in 
the evenings for Tom's sake, and often wished he had Tom's 
pleasure in reading, for the time hung heavy on his hands as he 
sat up for his mother. 

I need not tell you how the mother spent the weary hours 
And yet I will tell you something. She used to wander out, at 
first as if without a purpose, till she ralHed her thoughts, and 
brought all her energies to bear on the one point ; then she went 
with earnest patience along the least-known ways to some new 
part of the town, looking wistfully with dumb entreaty into 
people's faces ; sometimes catching a glimpse of a figure which 
had a kind of momentary likeness to her child's, and following 
that figure with never-wearying perseverance, till some light 
from shop or lamp showed the cold strange face which was not 
her daughter's. Once or twice a kind-hearted passer-by, struck 
by her look of yearning woe, turned back and offered help, or 
asked her what she wanted. When so spoken to, she answered 
only, "You don't know a poor girl they call Lizzie Leigh, do 
you ? " and when they denied all knowledge, she shook her 
head, and went on again. I think they believed her to be 
crazy. But she never spoke first to any one. She sometimes 
took a few minutes' rest on the door-steps, and sometimes (very 
seldom) covered her face and cried ; but she could not afford to 
lose time and chances in this way ; while her eyes were blinded 
with tears, the lost one might pass by unseen. 

One evening, in the rich time of shortening autumn days, 
Will saw an old man, who, without being absolutely drunk, 

N 2 



394 LIZZIE LEIGH. 

could not guide himself rightly along the foot-path, and was 
mocked for his unsteadiness of gait by the idle boys of the 
neighbourhood. For his father's sake, Will regarded old age 
with tenderness, even when most degraded and removed from 
the stern virtues which dignified that father ; so he took the old 
man home, and seemed to believe his often-repeated assertions, 
that he drank nothing but water. The stranger tried to stiffen 
himself up into steadiness as he drew nearer home, as if there 
was some one there for whose respect he cared even in his half- 
intoxicated state, or whose feelings he feared to grieve. His 
home was exquisitely clean and neat, even in outside appear- 
ance ; threshold, window, and window-sill were outward signs 
of some spirit of purity within. Will was rew^arded for his 
attention by a bright glance of thanks, succeeded by a blush 
of shame, from a young woman of twenty or thereabouts. She 
did not speak or second her father's hospitable invitations to 
liim to be seated. She seemed unwilling that a stranger should 
witness her father's attempts at stately sobriety, and Will could 
not bear to stay and see her distress. But when the old man, 
with many a flabby shake of the hand, kept asking him to come 
again some other evening, and see them, Will sought her down- 
cast eyes, and, though he could not read their veiled meaning, 
he answered timidly, " If it's agreeable to everybody, I'll come, 
and thank ye." But there was no answer from the girl, to 
whom this speech was in reahty addressed ; and Will left the 
house, liking her all the better for never speaking. 

He thought about her a great deal for the next day or two ; 
he scolded himself for being so foolish as to think of her, and 
then fell to with fresh vigour, and thought of her more than 
ever. He tried to depreciate her : he told himself she was not 
pretty, and then made indignant answer that he liked her looks 
much better than any beauty of them all. He wished he was 
not so country-looking, so red-faced, so broad-shouldered ; while 
she was like a lady, with her smooth, colourless complexion, her 
bright dark hair, and her spotless dress. Pretty or not pretty 
she drew his footsteps towards her ; he could not resist the 
impulse that made him wish to see her once more, and find out 
some fault which should unloose his heart from her unconscious 
keeping. But there she was, pure and maidenly as before. He 
sat and looked, answering her father at cross-purposes, while 
she drew more and more into the shadow of the chimney-corner 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 395 

out of sight. Then the spirit that possessed him (it was not he 
himself, sure, that did so impudent a thing !) made him get up 
and carry the candle to a different place, under the pretence of 
giving her more light at her sewing, but in reality to be able 
to see her better. She could not stand this much longer, but 
jumped up and said she must put her httle niece to bed ; and 
surely there never was, before or since, so troublesome a child 
of two years old, for though Will stayed an hour and a half 
longer, she never came down again. He won the father's heart, 
though, by his capacity as a listener ; for some people are not 
at all particular, and, so that they themselves may talk on un- 
disturbed, are not so unreasonable as te expect iittention to 
what they say. 

Will did gather this much, however, from the old man's talk. 
He had once been quite in a genteel line of business, but had 
failed for more money than any greengrocer he had heard of; 
at least, any who did not mix up fish and game with green- 
grocery proper. This grand failure seemed to have been the 
Invent of his life, and one on which he dwelt with a strange 
kind of pride. It appeared as if at present he rested from his 
past exertions (in the bankrupt line), and depended on his 
daughter, who kept a small school for very young children. 
But all these particulars Will only remembered and under- 
stood when he had left the house ; at the time he heard them, 
he was thinking of Susan. After he had made good his foot- 
ing at Mr. Palmer's, he was not long, you may be sure, with- 
out finding some reason for returning again and again. He 
listened to her father, he talked to the little niece, but he 
looked at Susan, both while he listened and while he talked. 
Her father kept on insisting upon his former gentility, the 
details of which would have appeared very questionable to 
Will's mind, if the sweet, delicate, modest Susan had not 
thrown an inexplicable air of refinement over all she came near. 
She never spoke much ; she was generally diligently at work ; 
but when she moved it was so noiselessly, and when she did 
speak, it was in so low and soft a voice, that silence, speech, 
motion, and stillness alike seemed to remove her high above 
Will's reach into some saintly and inaccessible air of glory — 
high above his reach, even as she knew him ! And, if she were 
made acquainted with the dark secret behind of his sister's shame, 
which was kept ever present to his mind by his mother's nightly 



3g6 LIZZIE LEIGH. 

search among the outcast and forsaken, would not Susan shrink 
away from him with loathing, as if he were tainted by the 
involuntary relationship ? This was his dread ; and thereupon 
followed a resolution that he would withdraw from her sweet 
company before it was too late. So he resisted internal tempta- 
tion, and stayed at home, and suffered and sighed. He became 
angry with his mother for her untiring patience in seeking for 
one who he could not help hoping was dead rather than alive. 
He spoke sharply to her, and received only such sad deprecatory 
answers as made him reproach himself, and still more lose 
sight of peace of mind. This struggle could not last long with- 
out affecting his health ; and Tom, his sole companion through 
the long evenings, noticed his increasing languor, his restless 
irritability, with perplexed anxiety, and at last resolved to call 
his mother's attention to his brother's haggard, careworn 
looks. She listened with a startled recollection of Will's claims 
upon her love. She noticed his decreasing appetite and half- 
checked sighs. 

" Will, lad! what's come o'er thee?" said she to him, as he 
sat listlessly gazing into the fire. 

"There's nought the matter with me," said he, as if annoyed 
at her remark. 

"Nay, lad, but there is." He did not speak again to con- 
tradict her; indeed, she did not know if he had heard her, so 
unmoved did he look. 

" Wouldst like to go to Upclose Farm?" asked she sor- 
rowfully. 

" It's just blackberrying time," said Tom. 

Will shook his head. She looked at him awhile, as if trying 
to read that expression of despondency, and trace it back to its 
source. 

"Will and Tom could go," said she, " I must stay here till 
I've found her, thou knowest," continued she, dropping her 
voice. 

He turned quickly round, and with the authority he at all 
times exercised over Tom, bade him begone to bed. 

When Tom had left the room, he prepared to speak. 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 397 



CHAPTER XL 

"Mother," then said Will, "why will you keep on thinking 
she's alive? If she were but dead, we need never name her 
name again. We've never heard nought on her since father 
wrote her that letter ; we never knew whether she got it or not. 
She'd left her place before then. Many a one dies in " 

"Oh, my lad! dunnot speak so to me, or my heart will 
break outright," said his mother, with a sort of cry. Then 
she calmed herself, for she yearned to persuade him to her 
own belief. "Thou never asked, and thourt too like thy 
father for me to tell without asking — but it were all to be 
near Lizzie's old place that I settled down on this side o* 
Manchester ; and the very day at after we came, I went to 
her old missus, and asked to speak a word wi her. I had 
a strong mind to cast it up to her, that she should ha' sent 
my poor lass away, without telhng on it to us first ; but she 
were in black, and looked so sad I could na' find in my heart 
to threep it up. But I did ask her a bit about our Lizzie. 
The master would have turned her away at a day's warning 
(he's gone to t'other place ; I hope he'll meet wi' more mercy 
there than he showed our Lizzie — I do), and when the missus 
asked her should she write to us, she says Lizzie shook her 
head ; and when she speered at her again, the poor lass went 
down on her knees, and begged her not, for she said it would 
break my heart (as it has done. Will — God knows it has)," 
said the poor mother, choking with her struggle to keep down 
her hard overmastering grief, "and her father would curse 
her — Oh, God, teach me to be patient." She could not speak 
for a few minutes — "and the lass threatened, and said she'd 
go drown herself in the canal, if the missus wrote home — 
and so 

"Well! I'd got a trace of my child— the missus thought 
she'd gone to the workhouse to be nursed ; and there I went 
— and there, sure enough, she had been — and they'd turned 
her out as she were strong, and told her she were young enough 
to work— but whatten kind o' work would be open to her, lad, 
and her baby to keep?" 

Will listened to his mother's tale with deep sympathy, not 



398 LIZZIE LEIGH. 

unmixed with the old bitter shame. But the opening of her 
heart had unlocked his, and after a while he spoke — • 

"Mother! I think I'd e'en better go home. Tom can stay 
wi' thee. I know I should stay too, but I cannot stay in 
peace so near — her — without craving to see her — Susan Palmer, 
I mean." 

"Has the old Mr. Palmer thou telled me on a daughter?" 
asked Mrs. Leigh. 

** Ay, he has. And I love her above a bit. And it's because 
I love her I want to leave Manchester. That's all." 

Mrs. Leigh tried to understand this speech for some time, but 
found it difficult of interpretation. 

"Why shouldst thou not tell her thou lov'st her? Thou'rt 
a likely lad, and sure o' work. Thou'lt have Upclose at my 
death ; and as for that, I could let thee have it now, and keep 
mysel' by doing a bit of charing. It seems to me a very 
backwards sort o' way of winning her to think of leaving 
Manchester." 

"Oh, mother, she's so gentle and so good — she's down- 
right holy. She's never known a touch of sin ; and can I ask 
her to marry me, knowing what we do about Lizzie, and fearing 
worse ? I doubt if one like her could ever care for me ; but 
if she knew about my sister, it would put a gulf between us, 
and she'd shudder up at the thought of crossing it. You don't 
know how good she is, mother ! " 

"Will, Will ! if she's so good as thou say'st, she'll have pity 
on such as my Lizzie. If she has no pity for such, she's a cruel 
Pharisee, and thou'rt best without her." 

But he only shook his head and sighed ; and for the time the 
conversation dropped. 

But a new idea sprang up in Mrs. Leigh's head. She thought 
that she would go and see Susan Palmer, and speak up for 
Will, and tell her the truth about Lizzie ; and according to 
her pity for the poor sinner, would she be worthy or unworthy 
of him. She resolved to go the very next afternoon, but 
without telling any one of her plan. Accordingly she looked 
out the Sunday clothes she bad never before had the heart to 
unpack since she came to Manchester, but which she now 
desired to appear in, in order to do credit to Will. She put 
on her old-fashioned black mode bonnet, trimmed with real 
lace; her scarlet cloth cloak, which she had had ever since 



i.izzm LEIGH. 399 

she was married ; and, always spotlessly clean, she set forth 
on her unauthorised embassy. She laiew the Palmers lived 
in Crown Street, though where she had heard it she could 
not tell ; and modestly asking her way, she arrived in the 
street about a quarter to four o'clock. She stopped to inquire 
the exact number, and the woman whom she addressed told her 
that Susan Palmer's school would not be loosed till four, and 
asked her to step in and wait until then at her house. 

"For," said she, smihng, "them that wants Susan Palmer 
wants a kind friend of ours ; so we, in a manner, call cousins. 
Sit down, missus, sit down. I'll wipe the chair, so that it 
shanna dirty your cloak. My mother used to wear them 
bright cloaks, and they're right gradely things agaiu a green 
held." 

"Han ye known Susan Palmer long?" asked Mrs. Leigh, 
pleased with the admiration of her cloak. 

" Ever since they corned to live in our street Our Sally goes 
to her school." 

' ' Whatten sort of a lass is she, for I ha' never seen 
her?" 

"Well, as for looks, I cannot say. It's so long since 1 first 
knowed her, that I've clean forgotten what I thought of her then. 
My master says he never saw such a smile for gladdening the 
heart. But may be it's not looks you're asking about. The best 
thing I can say of her looks is, that she's just one a stranger 
would stop in the street to ask help from if he needed it. All 
the little childer creeps as close as they can to her ; she'll 
have as many as three or four hanging to her apron all at 
once." 

" Is she cocket at all?" 

" Cocket, bless you ! you never saw a creature less set up in 
all your life. Her father's cocket enough. No ! she's not cocket 
any way. You've not heard much of Susan Palmer, I reckon, if 
you think she's cocket. She's just one to come quietly in, and 
do the very thing most wanted ; little things, may be, that any 
one could do, but that few would think on, for another. She'll 
bring her thimble wi' her, and mend up after the childer o' 
nights ; and she writes all Betty Harker's letters to her grand- 
child out at service ; and she's in nobody's way, and that's a 
great matter, I take it. Here's the childer running past ! School 
is loosed. You'll find her now, missus, ready to hear and to 



400 LIZZIB LEIGH. 

help. But we none on us frab her by going near her in school- 
time." 

Poor Mrs. Leigh's heart began to beat, and she could almost 
have turned round and gone home again. Her country breeding 
had made her shy of strangers, and this Susan Palmer appeared 
to her like a real born lady by all accounts. So she knocked 
with a timid feeling at the indicated door, and when it was 
opened, dropped a simple curtsey without speaking. Susan had 
her little niece in her arms, curled up with fond endearment 
against her breast, but she put her gently down to the ground, 
and instantly placed a chair in the best corner of the room for 
Mrs. Leigh, when she told her who she was. " It's not Will as 
has asked me to come," said the mother apologetically; "I'd 
a wish just to speak to you myself ! " 

Susan coloured up to her temples, and stooped to pick up the 
little toddling girl. In a minute or two Mrs. Leigh began again. 

' ' Will thinks you would na respect us if you knew all ; but 1 
think you could na help feeling for us in the sorrow God has put 
upon us ; so I just put on my bonnet, and came off unknownst 
to the lads. Every one says you're very good, and that the Lord 
has keeped you from falling from His ways ; but may be you've 
never yet been tried and tempted as some is. I'm perhaps 
speaking too plain, but my heart's welly broken, and I can't be 
choice in my words as them who are happy can. Well now ! 
I'll tell you the truth. Will dreads you to hear it, but I'll 

just tell it you. You mun know'' but here the poor 

woman's words failed her, and she could do nothing but 
sit rocking herself backwards and forwards, with sad eyes, 
straight gazing into Susan's face, as if they tried to tell the 
tale of agony which the quivering lips refused to utter. 
Those wretched, stony eyes forced the tears down Susan's 
cheeks, and, as if this sympathy gave the mother strength, 
she went on in a low voice — "I had a daughter once, my 
heart's darling. Her father thought I made too much on 
her, and that she'd grow marred staying at home ; so he 
said she mun go among strangers and learn to rough it. 
She were young, and liked the thought of seeing a bit of 
the world ; and her father heard on a place in Manchester. 
Well ! I'll not weary you. That poor girl were led astray ; 
and first thing we heard on it, was when a letter of her 
father's was sent back by her missus, saying she'd left her 



LIZZIE LEIGH. /;oi 

place, or, to speak right, the master had turned her into 
the street soon as he had heard of her condition — and she 
not seventeen 1" 

She now cried aloud ; and Susan wept too. The little child 
locked up into their faces, and, catching their sorrow, began to 
whimper and wail. Susan took it softly up, and hiding her face 
in its little neck, tried to restrain her tears, and think of comfort 
for the mother. At last she said — 

' ' Where is she now ? " 

" Lass ! I dunnot know," said Mrs. Leigh, checking her sobs 
to communicate this addition to her distress. "Mrs. Lomax 
telled me she went " 

"Mrs. Lomax — what Mrs. Lomax?" 

"Her as lives in Brabazon Street. She telled me my poor 
wench went to the workhouse fra there. I'll not speak again 
the dead ; but if her father would but ha' letten me — but he 
were one who had no notion — no, I'll not say that ; best say 
nought. He forgave her on his death-bed. I dare say I did na 
go th' right way to work." 

"Will you hold the child for me one instant?" said Susan. 

' ' Ay, if it will come to me. Childer used to be fond 
on me till I got the sad look on my face that scares them, 
I think." 

But the little girl clung to Susan ; so she carried it upstairs 
with her. Mrs. Leigh sat by herself — how long she did not 
know. 

Susan came down with a bundle of far-worn baby clothes. 

"You must listen to me a bit, and not think too much 
about what I'm going to tell you. Nanny is not my niece, 
nor any kin to me, that I know of. I used to go out work- 
ing by the day. One night as I came home, I thought 
some woman was following me ; I turned to look. The 
woman, before I could see her face (for she turned it to 
one side), offered me something. I held out my arms by 
instinct ; she dropped a bundle into them, with a bursting 
sob that went straight to my heart. It was a baby. I looked 
round again ; but the woman was gone. She had run away 
as quick as lightning. There was a little packet of clothes- 
very few — and as if they were made out of its mother's gowns, 
for they were large patterns to buy for a baby. I was 
always fond of babies ; and I had not my wits about me. 



402 LIZZIE LEIGH. 

father says; for it was very cold, and when I'd seen as well 
as I could (for it was past ten) that there was no one in 
the street, I brought it in and warmed it. Father was very 
angry when he came, and said he'd take it to the workhouse 
the next morning, and flyted me sadly about it. But when 
morning came I could not bear to part with it ; it had slept 
in my arms all night ; and I've heard what workhouse 
bringing-up is. So I told father I'd give up going out 
working, and stay at home and keep school, if I might 
only keep the baby ; and, after a while, he said if I earned 
enough for him to have his comforts, he'd let me ; but he's 
never taken to her. Now, don't tremble so — I've but a little 
more to tell — and may be I'm wrong in telling it ; but I used 
to work next door to Mrs. Lomax's, in Brabazon Street, and 
the servants were all thick together ; and I heard about 
Bessy (they called her) being sent away. I don't know that 
ever I saw her ; but the time would be about fitting to this 
child's age, and I've sometimes fancied it was hers. And 
now, will you look at the little clothes that came with her 
— bless her ! " 

But Mrs. Leigh had fainted. The strange joy and shame, 
and gushing love for the little child, had overpowered her ; 
it was some time before Susan could bring her round. There 
she was all trembling, sick with impatience to look at the 
little frocks. Among them was a slip of paper which Susan 
had forgotten to name, that had been pinned to the bundle. 
On it was scrawled, in a round, stiff hand — 

' * Call her Anne. She does not cry much, and takes a deal 
Of notice. God bless you, and forgive me." 

The writing was no clue at all; the name "Anne," common 
though it w^as, seemed something to build upon. But Mrs. 
Leigh recognised one of the frocks instantly, as being made 
out of a part of a gown that she and her daughter had bought 
together in Rochdale. 

She stood up, and stretched out her hands in the attitude of 
blessing over Susan's bent head. 

* ' God bless you, and show you His mercy in your need, as 
you have shown it to this little child." 

She took the little creature in her arms, and smoothed 
away her sad looks to a smile, and kissed it fondly, saying 
over and over again, "Nanny, Nanny, my little Nanny." 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 403: 

At last the child was soothed, and looked in her face and 
smiled back again. 

" It has her eyes," said she to Susan. 

"I never saw her to the best of my knowledge. I think it 
must be hers by the frock. But where can she be? " 

"God knows," said Mrs. Leigh; "I dare not think she's 
dead. I'm sure she isn't." 

"No; she's not dead. Every now and then a little packet 
is thrust in under our door, with, may be, two half-crowns 
in it ; once it was half-a-sovereign. Altogether I've got seven- 
and-thirty shillings wrapped up for Nanny. I never touch 
it, but I've often thought the poor mother feels near to 
God when she brings this money. Father wanted to set 
the policeman to watch, but I said No ; for I was afraid 
if she was watched she might not come, and it seemed such 
a holy thing to be checking her in, I could not find in my 
heart to do it." 

"Oh, if we could but find her! I'd take her in my arm?,, 
and we'd just lie down and die together." 

"Nay, don't speak so!" said Susan gently; "for all that's 
come and gone, she may turn right at last. Mary Magdalen 
did, you know." 

**Eh! but I were nearer right about thee than Will. He 
thought you would never look on him again if you knew about 
Lizzie. But thou'rt not a Pharisee." 

" I'm sorry he thought I could be so hard," said Susan, in 
a low voice, and colouring up. Then Mrs. Leigh was alarmed, 
and, in her motherly anxiety, she began to fear lest she had. 
injured Will in Susan's estimation. 

"You see Will thinks so much of you — gold would not be 
good enough for you to walk on, in his eye. He said you'd 
never look at him as he was, let alone his being brother 
to my poor wench. He loves you so, it makes him think 
meanly on everything belonging to himself, *.s not fit to 
come near ye ; but he's a good lad, and a good son. Thou'lt 
be a happy woman if thou'lt have him, so don't let my words 
go against him — don't ! " 

But Susan hung her head, and made no answer. She had 
not known until now that Will thought so earnestly and 
seriously about her ; and even now she felt afraid that Mrs. 
Leigh's words promised her too much happiness, and that 



404 LIZZIE LEIGH. 

they could not be true. At any rate, the instinct of modesty 
made her shrink from saying anything which might seem 
like a confession of her own feelings to a third person. Ac- 
cordingly she turned the conversation on the child. 

" I am sure he could not help loving Nanny," said she. 
"There never was such a good little darling; don't you 
think she'd win his heart if he knew she was his niece, and 
perhaps bring him to think kindly on his sister? " 

"I dunnot know," said Mrs. Leigh, shaking her head. 

* ' He has a turn in his eye like his father, that makes me 

He's right down good though. But, you see, I've never been 
a good one at managing folk ; one severe look turns me sick, 
and then I say just the wrong thing, I'm so fluttered. Now 
I should like nothing better than to take Nancy home with me, 
but Tom knows nothing but that his sister is dead, and I've 
not the knack of speaking rightly to Will. I dare not do it, 
and that's the truth. But you mun not think badly of Will. 
He's so good hissel, that he can't understand how any one can 
do wrong ; and, above all, I'm sure he loves you dearly." 

"I don't think I could part with Nancy," said Susan, 
anxious to stop this revelation of Will's attachment to her- 
self. " He'll come round to her soon ; he can't fail ; and 
I'll keep a sharp look-out after the poor mother, and try and 
catch her the next time she comes with her little parcels of 
money." 

' ' Ay, lass ; we mun get hold of her ; my Lizzie. I love 
thee dearly for thy kindness to her child ; but if thou canst 
catch her for me, I'll pray for thee when I'm too near my death 
to speak words ; and, while I live, I'll serve thee next to her 
— she mun come first, thou know'st. God bless thee, lass. 
My heart is lighter by a deal than it was when I comed in. 
Them lads will be looking for me home, and I mun go, 
and leave this little sweet one" (kissing it). " If I can take 
courage, I'll tell Will all that has come and gone between 
us two. He may come and see thee, mayn't he? " 

" Father will be very glad to see him, I'm sure," replied 
Susan. The way in which this was spoken satisfied Mrs. 
Leigh's anxious heart that she had done Will no harm by 
what she had said ; and, with many a kiss to the little one, 
and one more fervent tearful blessing on Susan, she went 
homewards. 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 40$ 



CHAPTER III. 

That night Mrs. Leigh stopped at home — that only night 
for many months. Even Tom, the scholar, looked up from 
his books in amazement ; but then he remembered that Will 
had not been well, and that his mother's attention having 
been called to the circumstance, it was only natural she 
should stay to watch him. And no watching could be more 
tender, or more complete. Her loving eyes seemed never 
averted from his face — his grave, sad, careworn face. When 
Tom went to bed the mother left her seat, and going up 
to Will, where he sat looking at the fire, but not seeing it, 
she kissed his forehead, and said — 

" Will ! lad, I've been to see Susan Palmer ! " 

She felt the start under her hand which was placed on his 
shoulder, but he was silent for a minute or two. Then he 
said — 

"What took you there, mother ? " 

" Wliy, my lad, it was hkely I should wish to see one 
you cared for ; I did not put myself forward. I put on my 
Sunday clothes, and tried to behave as yo'd ha' liked me. At 
least, I remember trying at first ; but after, I forgot all." 

She rather wished that he would question her as to what 
made her forget all. But he only said — 

" How was she looking, mother ? " 

"Well, thou seest I never set eyes on her before ; but she's 
a good, gentle-looking creature ; and I love her dearly, as I've 
reason to." 

Will looked up with momentary surprise, for his mother was 
too shy to be usually taken with strangers. But, after all, it 
was natural in this case, for who could look at Susan without 
loving her? So still he did not ask any questions, and his poor 
mother had to take courage, and try again to introduce the 
subject near to her heart. But how ? 

"Will!" said she (jerking it out in sudden despair of her 
own powers to lead to what she wanted to say), "I telled 
her all." 

"Mother! you've ruined me," said he, standing up, and 



4C6 "LIZZIE LEIGH. 

standing opposite to her with a stern white look of affright on 
his face. 

"No! my own dear lad; dunnot look so scared; I have 
not ruined you ! " she exclaimed, placing her two hands on 
his shoulders, and looking fondly into his face. " She's not 
one to harden her heart against a mother's sorrow. My own 
lad, she's too good for that. She's not one to judge and scorn 
the sinner. She's too deep read in her New Testament for that. 
Take courage, Will ; and thou may'st, for I watched her well, 
though it is not for one woman to let out another's secret. Sit 
thee down, lad, for thou look'st very white." 

He sat down. His mother drew a stool towards him, and 
sat at his feet. 

"Did you tell her about Lizzie, then?" asked he, hoarse 
and low. 

" I did ; I telled her all ! and she fell a-crying over my deep 
sorrow, and the poor wench's sin. And then a light comed 
into her face, trembling and quivering with some new glad 
"thought; and what dost thou think it was, Will, lad? Nay, 
ni not misdoubt but that thy heart will give thanks as mine 
did, afore God and His angels, for her great goodness. That 
little Nanny is not her niece, she's our Lizzie's own child, my 
little grandchild." She could no longer restrain her tears ; 
and they fell hot and fast, but still she looked into his face. 

" Did she know it was Lizzie's child ? I do not comprehend," 
said he, flushing red. 

"She knows now; she did not at first, but took the little 
helpless creature in, out of her own pitiful, loving heart, guess- 
ing only that it was the child of shame ; and she's worked for 
it, and kept it, and tended it ever sin' it were a mere baby, 
and loves it fondly. Will! won't you love it?" asked she 
beseechingly. 

He was silent for an instant ; then he said, " Mother, I'll try. 
Give me time, for all these things startle me. To think of Susan 
having to do with such a child ! " 

"Ay, Will! and to think, as may be yet, of Susan having 
to do with the child's mother ! For she is tender and pitiful, 
and speaks hopefully of my lost one, and will try and find her 
for me, when she comes, as she does sometimes, to thrust 
money under the door, for her baby. Think of that, Will. 
Here's Susan, good and pure as the angels in heaven, yet. 



"LIZZIE LEIGH. 407 

like them, full of hope and mercy, and one who, hke them, 
will rejoice over her as repents. Will, my lad, I'm not afeard of 
you now ; and I must speak, and you must listen. I am your 
mother, and I dare to command you, because I know I am in 
the right, and that God is on my side. If He should lead the 
poor wandering lassie to Susan's door, and she comes back, 
crying and sorrowful, led by that good angel to us once more, 
thou shalt never say a casting-up word to her about her sin, but 
be tender and helpful towards one ' who was lost and is found ; ' 
so may God's blessing rest on thee, and so may'st thou lead 
Susan home as thy wife." 

She stood no longer as the meek, imploring, gentle mother, 
but firm and dignified, as if the interpreter of God's will. Her 
manner was so unusual and solemn, that it overcame all Will's 
pride and stubbornness. He rose softly while she was speak- 
ing, and bent his head, as if in reverence at her words, and 
the solemn injunction which they conveyed. When she had 
spoken, he said, in so subdued a voice that she was almost 
surprised at the sound, " Mother, I will." 

" I may be dead and gone ; but, all the same, thou wilt take 
home the wandering sinner, and heal up her sorrows, and lead 
her to her Father's house. My lad, I can speak no more ; I'm 
turned very faint." 

He placed her in a chair ; he ran for water. She opened her 
■eyes, and smiled. 

" God bless you. Will. Oh ! I am so happy. It seems as if 
she were found ; my heart is so filled with gladness." 

That night Mr. Palmer stayed out late and long. Susan was 
afraid that he was at his old haunts and habits — getting tipsy 
at some public-house ; and this thought oppressed her, even 
though she had so much to make her happy in the conscious- 
ness that Will loved her. She sat up long, and then she went 
to bed, leaving all arranged as well as she could for her father's 
return. She looked at the little rosy, sleeping girl who was her 
bed-fellow, with redoubled tenderness, and with many a prayer- 
ful thought. The little arms entwined her neck as she lay down, 
for Nanny was a light sleeper, and was conscious that she, who 
was loved with all the power of that sweet, childish heart, was 
near her, and by her, although she was too sleepy to utter any 
of her half-formed words. 

And, by-and-by, she heard her father come home, stumbling 



408 -LIZZIE LEIGH. 

uncertain, trying first the windows, and next the door-fasten- 
ings, with many a loud incoherent murmur. The little inno- 
cent twined around her seemed all the sweeter and more 
lovely, when she thought sadly of her erring father. And 
presently he called aloud for a light. She had left matches 
and all arranged as usual on the dresser ; but, fearful of some 
accident from fire, in his unusually intoxicated state, she now- 
got up softly, and putting on a cloak, went down to his 
assistance. 

Alas ! the little arms that were unclosed from her soft neck 
belonged to a light, easily-awakened sleeper. Nanny missed 
her darling Susy ; and terrified at being left alone, in the vast 
mysterious darkness, which had no bounds and seemed infinite, 
she slipped out of bed, and tottered, in her little nightgown, 
towards the door. There was a light below, and there was 
Susy and safety ! So she went onwards two steps towards 
the steep, abrupt stairs ; and then, dazzled by sleepiness, she 
stood, she wavered, she fell ! Down on her head on the stone 
floor she fell ! Susan flew to her, and spoke all soft, entreat- 
ing, loving words ; but her white lids covered up the blue 
violets of eyes, and there was no murmur came out of tlie 
pale lips. The warm tears that rained down did not awaken 
her ; she lay stiff, and weary with her short life, on Susan's 
knee, Susan went sick with terror. She carried her upstairs, 
and laid her tenderly in bed ; she dressed herself most hastily, 
with her trembling fingers. Her father was asleep on the 
settle downstairs ; and useless, and worse than useless, if 
awake. But Susan flew out of the door, and down the quiet 
resounding street, towards the nearest doctor's house. Quickly 
she went, but as quickly a shadow followed, as if impelled by 
some sudden terror. Susan rang wildly at the nightbell— the 
shadow crouched near. The doctor looked out from an up- 
stairs window. 

"A little child has fallen downstairs, at No. 9 Crown Street, 
and is very ill — dying, I'm afraid. Please, for God's sake, sir, 
come directly. No. 9 Crown Street." 

" I'll be there directly," said he, and shut the window. 

" For that God you have just spoken about — for His sake — 
tell me, are you Susan Palmer? Is it my child that lies a- 
dying?" said the shadow, springing forwards, and clutching 
poor Susan's arm. 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 409 

"It is a little child of two years old. I do not know whose 
it is ; I love it as my own. Com with me, whoever you are; 
come with me." 

The two sped along the silent streets— as silent as the night 
were they. They entered the house ; Susan snatched up the 
light, and carried it upstairs. The other followed. 

She stood with wild, glaring eyes by the bedside, never look- 
ing at Susan, but hungrily gazing at the little, white, still child. 
She stooped down, and put her hand tight on her own heart, as 
if to still its beating, and bent her ear to the pale lips. What- 
ever the result was, she did not speak ; but threw off the bed- 
clothes wherewith Susan had tenderly covered up the little 
creature, and felt its left side. 

Then she threw up her arms, with a cry of wild despair. 

"She is dead ! she is dead ! " 

She looked so fierce, so mad, so haggard, that, for an 
instant, Susan was terrified ; the next, the holy God had put 
courage into her heart, and her pure arms were round that 
guilty, wretched creature, and her tears were falling fast and 
warm upon her breast. But she was thrown off with vio- 
lence. 

"You killed her — you slighted her — you let her fall down 
those stairs ! you killed her ! " 

Susan cleared off the thick mist before her, and, gazing at 
the mother with her clear, sweet angel eyes, said, mourn- 
fully— 

" I would have laid down my own life for her." 

"Oh, the murder is on my soul!" exclaimed the wild, 
bereaved mother, with the fierce impetuosity of one who has 
none to love her, and to be beloved, regard to whom might 
teach self-restraint. 

" Hush ! " said Susan, her finger on her lips. " Here is the 
doctor. God may suffer her to live." 

The poor mother turned sharp round. The doctor mounted 
the stair. Ah ! that mother was right ; the little child was 
really dead and gone. 

And when he confirmed her judgment, the mother fell down 
in a fit. Susan, with her deep grief, had to forget herself, and 
forget her darling (her charge for years), and question the 
doctor what she must do with the poor wretch, who lay on the 
floor in such extreme of misery. 



4IO LIZZIE LEIGH. 

" She is the mother ! " said she. 

"Why did she not take better care of her child?" asked he, 
almost angrily. 

But Susan only said, " The little child slept with me ; and it 
was I that left her." 

"I will go back and make up a composing draught; and 
while I am away you must get her to bed." 

Susan took out some of her own clothes, and softly undressed 
the stiff, powerless form. There was no other bed in the house 
but the one in which her father slept. So she tenderly hfted 
the body of her darling ; and was going to take it downstairs, 
but the mother opened her eyes, and seeing what she was 
about, she said — 

" I am not worthy to touch her, I am so wicked. I have 
spoken to you as I never should have spoken ; but I think you 
are very good. May I have my own child to lie in my arms for 
a little while?" 

Her voice was so strange a contrast to what it had been 
before she had gone into the fit, that Susan hardly recognised 
it : it was now so unspeakably soft, so irresistibly pleading ; 
the features too had lost their fierce expression, and were 
almost as placid as death. Susan could not speak, but she 
carried the little child, and laid it in its mother's arms ; then, 
as she looked at them, something overpowered her, and she 
knelt down, crying aloud — 

" Oh, my God, my God, have mercy on her, and forgive and 
comfort her." 

But the mother kept smiling, and stroking the little face, 
murmuring soft, tender words, as if it were alive. She was 
going mad, Susan thought ; but she prayed on, and on, and 
ever still she prayed with streaming eyes. 

The doctor came with the draught. The mother took it, 
with docile unconsciousness of its nature as medicine. The 
doctor sat by her ; and soon she fell asleep. Then he rose 
softly, and beckoning Susan to the door, he spoke to her ihere. 

"You must take the corpse out of her arms. She will not 
awake. That draught will make her sleep for many hours. 
I will call before noon again. It is now daylight. Good- 
bye." 

Susan shut him out ; and then, gently extricating the dead 
child from its mother's arms, she could not resist making her 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 4II 

own quiet moan over her darling. She tried to learn off its 
little placid face, dumb and pale before her. 

" Not all the scalding tears of care 
Shall wash away that vision fair : 
Not all the thousand thoughts that rise, 
Not all the sights that dim her eyes, 

Shall e'er usurp the place 

Of that little angel-face." 

And then she remembered what remained to be done. She 
saw that all was right in the house ; her father was still dead 
asleep on the settle, in spite of all the noise of the night. She 
went out through the quiet streets, deserted still, although it 
was broad daylight, and to where the Leighs lived. Mrs. 
Lei^h, who kept her country hours, was opening her window- 
shutters. Susan took her by the arm, and, without speaking, 
went into the house-place. There she knelt down before the 
astonished Mrs. Leigh, and cried as she had never done before ; 
but the miserable night had overpowered her, and she who had 
gone through so much calmly, now that the pressure seemed 
removed could not find the power to speak. 

"My poor dear! What has made thy heart so sore as to 
come and cry a-this-ons ? Speak and tell me. Nay, cry on, 
poor wench, if thou canst not speak yet. It will ease the heart, 
and then thou canst tell me." 

** Nanny is dead ! " said Susan. " I left her to go to father, 
and she fell downstairs, and never breathed again. Oh, that's 
my sorrow ! But I've more to telL Her mothfer is come — is 
in our house ! Come and see if it's your Lizzie." 

Mrs. Leigh could not speak, but, trembling, put on her 
things, and went with Susan in dizzy haste back to Crov/n 
Street. 



412 LIZZIE LEIGH. 



CHAPTER IV. 

As they entered the house in Crown Street, they perceived that 
the door would not open freely on its hinges, and Susan instinc- 
tively looked behind to see the cause of the obstruction. She 
immediately recognised the appearance of a little parcel, wrapped 
in a scrap of newspaper, and evidently containing money. She 
stooped and picked it up. "Look!" said she sorrowfully, 
" the mother was bringing this for her child last night." 

But Mrs. Leigh did not answer. So near to the ascertaining 
if it were her lost child or no, she could not be arrested, but 
pressed onwards with trembling steps and a beating, fluttering 
heart. She entered the bedroom, dark and still. She took no 
heed of the little corpse over which Susan paused, but she went 
straight to the bed, and, withdrawing the curtain, saw Lizzie ; 
but not the former Lizzie, bright, gay, buoyant, and undimmed. 
This Lizzie was old before her time ; her beauty was gone ; 
deep lines of care, and, alas ! of want (or thus the mother 
imagined) were printed on the cheek, so round, and fair, and 
smooth, when last she gladdened her mother's eyes. Even in 
her sleep she bore the look of woe and despair which was the 
prevalent expression of her face by day ; even in her sleep she 
had forgotten how to smile. But all these marks of the sin 
and sorrow she had passed through only made her mother love 
her the more. She stood looking at her with greedy eyes, 
which seemed as though no gazing could satisfy their longing ; 
and at last she stooped down and kissed the pale, worn hand 
that lay outside the bedclothes. No touch disturbed the 
sleeper; the mother need not have laid the hand so gently 
down upon the counterpane. There was no sign of life, save 
only now and then a deep sob-like sigh. Mrs. Leigh sat 
down beside the bed, and still holding back the curtain, looked 
on and on, as if she could never be satisfied. 

Susan would fain have stayed by her darling one ; but she 
had many calls upon her time and thoughts, and her will had 
now, as ever, to be given up to that of others. All seemed to 
devolve the burden of their cares on her. Her father, ill- 
humoured from his last night's intemperance, did not scruple 



'LIZZIE LEIGH. 413 

to reproach her with being the cause of little Nanny's death ; 
and when, after bearing his upbraiding meekly for some time, 
she could no longer restrain herself, but began to cry, he 
wounded her even more by his injudicious attempts at comfort ; 
for he said it was as well the child was dead ; it was none of 
theirs, and why should they be troubled with it? Susan wrung 
her hands at this, and came and stood before her father, and 
implored him to forbear. Then she had to take all requisite 
steps for the coroner's inquest ; she had to arrange for the 
dismissal of her school ; she had to summon a little neigh- 
bour, and send his willing feet on a message to William 
Leigh, who, she felt, ought to be informed of his mother's 
whereabouts, and of the whole state of affairs. She asked 
her messenger to tell him to come and speak to her ; that 
his mother was at her house. She was thankful that her 
father sauntered out to have a gossip at the nearest coach- 
stand, and to relate as many of the night's adventures as he 
knew ; for as yet he was in ignorance of the watcher and the 
watched, who silently passed away the hours upstairs. 

At dinner-time Will came. He looked red, glad, impatient, 
excited. Susan stood calm and white before him, her soft,, 
loving eyes gazing straight into his. 

"Will," said she, in a low, quiet voice, "your sister is 
upstairs." 

" My sister ! " said he, as if affrighted at the idea, and losing 
his glad look in one of gloom. Susan saw it, and her heart sank 
a little, but she went on as calm to all appearance as ever. 

" She was little Nanny's mother, as perhaps you know. Poor 
little Nanny was killed last night by a fall downstairs." All 
the calmness was gone ; all the suppressed feeling was dis- 
played in spite of every effort. She sat down, and hid her face 
from him, and cried bitterly. He forgot everything but the 
wish, the longing to comfort her. He put his arm round her 
waist, and bent over her. But all he could say, was, "Oh, 
Susan, how can I comfort you? Don't take on so — pray 
don't ! " He never changed the words, but the tone varied 
every time he spoke. At last she seemed to regain her power 
over herself; and she wiped her eyes, and once more looked 
upon him with her own quiet, earnest, unfearing gaze. 

"Your sister was near the house. She came in on hearing 
my words to the doctor. She is asleep now, and your mother 



414 "LIZZIE LEIGH. 

is watching her. I wanted to tell you all riiyself. Would you 
like to see your mother?" 

' ' No ! " said he. "I would rather see none but thee. Mother 
told me thou knew'st all." His eyes were downcast in their shame. 

But the holy and pure did not lower or veil her eyes. 

She said, "Yes, I know all — all but her sufferings. Think 
what they must have been ! " 

He made answer, low and stern, "She deserved them all; 
every jot." 

"In the eye of God, perhaps she does. He is the Judge; 
we are not." 

"Oh!" she said, with a sudden burst, "Will Leigh! I 
have thought so well of you ; don't go and make me think you 
cruel and hard. Goodness is not goodness unless there is 
mercy and tenderness with it. There is your mother, who has 
been nearly heart-broken, now fujl of rejoicing over her child. 
Think of your mother." ^ 

"I do think of her," said he. "I remember the promise 
I gave her last night. Thou shouldst give me time. I would 
do right in time. I never think it o'er in quiet. But I will do 
what is right and fitting, never fear. Thou hast spoken out 
very plain to me, and misdoubted me, Susan ; I love thee so, 
that thy words cut me. If I did hang back a bit from making 
sudden promises, it was because not even for love of thee, 
would I say what I was not feeling ; and at first I could 
not feel all at once as thou wouldst have me. But I'm not 
cruel and hard ; for if I had been, I should na' have grieved as 
I have done." 

He made as if he were going away ; and indeed he did 
feel he would rather think it over in quiet. But Susan, grieved 
at her incautious words, which had all the appearance of 
harshness, went a step or two nearer — paused — and then, all 
over blushes, said in a low, soft whisper — 

"Oh, Will! I beg your pardon. I am very sorry. Won't 
you forgive me?" 

She who had always drawn back, and been so reserved, said 
this in the very softest manner ; with eyes now uplifted beseech- 
ingly, now dropped to the ground. Her sweet confusion told 
more than words could do ; and Will turned back, all joyous 
in his certainty of being beloved, and took her in his arms, 
and kissed her. 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 415 

" My own Susan ! " he said. 

Meanwhile the mother watched her child in the room above. 

It was late in the afternoon before she awoke, for the 
sleeping draught had been very powerful. The instant she 
awoke, her eyes were fixed on her mother's face with a 
gaze as unflinching as if she were fascinated. Mrs. Leigh 
did not turn away, nor move ; for it seemed as if motion 
would unlock the stony command over herself which, while 
so perfectly still, she was enabled to preserve. But by-and-by 
Lizzie cried out, in a piercing voice of agony — 

"Mother, don't look at me! I have been so wicked!" 
and instantly she hid her face, and grovelled among the bed- 
clothes, and lay like one dead, so motionless was she. 

Mrs. Leigh knelt down by the bed, and spoke in the most 
soothing tones. 

"Lizzie, dear, don't speak so. I'm thy mother, darling; 
don't be afeard of me. I never left off loving thee, Lizzie. 
I was always a-thinking of thee. Thy father forgave thee 
afore he died." (There was a little start here, but no sound 
was heard.) "Lizzie, lass, I'll do ought for thee; I'll live 
for thee ; only don't be afeard of me. Whate'er thou art or 
hast been, we'll ne'er speak on't. We'll leave th' oud times 
behind us, and go back to the Upclose Farm. I but left it 
to find thee, my lass ; and God has led me to thee. Blessed 
be His name. And God is good, too, Lizzie. Thou hast 
not forgot thy Bible, I'll be bound, for thou wert always a 
scholar. I'm no reader, but I learnt off them texts to comfort 
me a bit, and I've said them many a time a day to myself. 
Lizzie, lass, don't hide thy head so ; it's thy mother as is 
speaking to thee. Thy little child clung to me only yesterday ; 
and if it's gone to be an angel, it will speak to God for thee. 
Nay, don't sob a-that-'as ; thou shalt have it again in heaven ; 
I know thou'lt strive to get there, for thy little Nancy's sake — 
and listen ! I'll tell thee God's promises to them that are 
penitent — only doan't be afeard." 

Mrs. Leigh folded her hands, and strove to speak very clearly, 
while she repeated every tender and merciful text she could 
remember. She could tell from the breathing that her daughter 
was listening ; but she was so dizzy and sick herself when she 
had ended, that she could not go on speaking. It was all she 
could do to keep from crying aloud. 



4l6 LIZZIE LEIGH. 

At last she heard her daughter's voice. 

"Where have they taken her to ?" she asked. 

"She is downstairs. So quiet, and peaceful, and happy she 
looks." 

" Could she speak ! Oh, if God — if I might but have heard 
her little voice ! Mother, I used to dream of it. May I see her 
once again? Oh, mother, if I strive very hard and God is ver}- 
merciful, and I go to heaven, I shall not know her — I shall not 
know my own again ; she will shun me as a stranger, and cling 
to Susan Palmer and to you. Oh, woe! Oh, woe!" She 
shook with exceeding sorrow. 

In her earnestness of speech she had uncovered her face, and 
tried to read Mrs. Leigh's thoughts through her looks. And 
when she saw those aged eyes brimming full of tears, and 
marked the quivering lips, she threw her arms round the 
faithful mother's neck, and wept there as she had done in 
many a childish sorrow, but with a deeper, a more wretched 
grief. 

Her mother hushed her on her breast ; and lulled her as if 
she were a baby ; and she grew still and quiet. 

They sat thus for a long, long time. At last, Susan Palmer 
came up with some tea and bread and butter for Mrs. Leigh. 
She watched the mother feed her sick, unwilling child, with 
every fond inducement to eat which she could devise ; they 
neither of them took notice of Susan's presence. That night 
they lay in each other's arms ; but Susan slept on the ground 
beside them. 

They took the little corpse (the little unconscious sacrifice, 
whose early calling home had reclaimed her poor wandering 
mother) to the hills, which in her lifetime she had never 
seen. They dared not lay her by the stern grandfather in 
Milne Row churchyard, but they bore her to a lone moor- 
land graveyard, where, long ago, the Quakers used to bury 
their dead. They laid her there on the sunny slope, where the 
earliest spring flowers blow. 

Will and Susan live at the Upclose Farm. Mrs. Leigh and 
Lizzie dwell in a cottage so secluded that, until you drop into 
the very hollow where it is placed, you do not see it. Tom 
is a schoolmaster in Rochdale, and he and Will help to 
support their mother. I only know that, if the cottage be 
hidden in a green hollow of the hills, every sound of sorrow 



LIZZIE LEIGH. 417 

in the whole upland is heard there— every call of suffering or 
of sickness for help is listened to by a sad, gentle-looking 
woman, who rarely smiles (and when she does her smile is 
more sad than other people's tears), but who comes out of 
her seclusion whenever there is a shadow in any household. 
Many hearts bless Lizzie Leigh, but she— she prays always 
and ever for forgiveness — such forgiveness as may enable her 
to see her child once more. Mrs. Leigh is quiet and happy. 
Lizzie is, to her eyes, something precious — as the lost piece 
of silver — found once more. Susan is the bright one who 
brings sunshine to all. Children grow around her and call 
her blessed. One is called Nanny ; her Lizzie often takes to 
the sunny graveyard in the uplands, and while the little creature 
gathers the daisies, and makes chains, Lizzie sits by a little 
grave and weeps bitterly. 






THE CROOKED BRANCH. 



NOT many years after the beginning of this century, a 
worthy couple of the name of Huntroyd occupied a 
small farm in the North Riding of Yorkshire. They had 
married late in life, although they were very young when 
they first began to " keep company" with each other. Nathan 
Huntroyd had been farm-servant to Hester Rose's father, and 
had made up to her at a time when her parents thought she 
might do better ; and so, without much consultation of her 
feelings, they had dismissed Nathan in somewhat cavalier 
fashion. He had drifted far away from his former connec- 
tions, when an uncle of his died, leaving Nathan— by this 
time upwards of forty years of age — enough money to stock 
a small farm, and yet have something over to put in the 
bank against bad times. One of the consequences of this 
bequest was, that Nathan was looking out for a wife and 
housekeeper, in a kind of discreet and leisurely way, when 
one day he heard that his old love, Hester, was — not married 
and flourishing, as he had always supposed her to be — but 
a poor maid-of-all-work, in the town of Ripon. For her father 
had had a succession of misfortunes, which had brought him 
in his old age to the workhouse ; her mother was dead ; her 
only brother struggling to bring up a large family ; and 
Hester herself, a hard-working, homely -looking (at thirty- 
seven) servant. Nathan had a kind of growling satisfaction 
(which only lasted a minute or two, however) in hearing of 
these turns of fortune's wheel. He did not make many intel- 
ligible remarks to his informant, and to no one else did he 
say a word. But a few days afterwards, he presented him- 
self, dressed in his Sunday best, at Mrs. Thompson's back 
door in Ripon. 

Hester stood there, in answer to the good sound knock 
418 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 419 

his good sound oak-stick made ; she with the light full upon 
her, he in shadow. For a moment there was silence. He 
was scanning the face and figure of his old love, for twenty- 
years unseen. The comely beauty of youth had faded away 
entirely ; she was, as I have said, homely-looking, plain- 
featured, but with a clean skin, and pleasant frank eyes. 
Her figure was no longer round, but tidily draped in a blue 
and white bedgown, tied round her waist by her white apron- 
strings, and her short red hnsey petticoat showed her tidy 
feet and ankles. Her former lover fell into no ecstasies. He 
simply said to himself, ' ' She'll do ; " and forthwith began upon 
his business. 

"Hester, thou dost not mind me. I am Nathan, as thy 
father turned off at a minute's notice, for thinking of thee for 
a wife, twenty year come Michaelmas next. I have not thought 
much upon matrimony since. But Uncle Ben has died, leaving 
me a small matter in the bank ; and I have taken Nab-End 
Farm, and put in a bit of stock, and shall want a missus to 
see after it. Wilt like to come? I'll not mislead thee. It's 
dairy, and it might have been arable. But arable takes more 
horses nor it suited me to buy, and I'd the offer of a tidy lot 
of kine. That's all. If thou'lt have me, I'll come for thee as 
soon as the hay is gotten in." 

Hester only said, " Come in, and sit thee down." 
He came in, and sat down. For a time, she took no more 
notice of him than of his stick, bustling about to get dinner 
ready for the family whom she served. He meanwhile watched 
her brisk, sharp movements, and repeated to himself, "She'll 
do ! " After about twenty minutes of silence thus employed, 
he got up, saying — 

"Well, Hester, I'm going. When shall I come back again ? " 
"Please thysel', and thou'U please me," said Hester, in a 
tone that she tried to make light and indifferent ; but he saw 
that her colour came and went, and that she trembled while 
she moved about. In another moment Hester was soundly 
kissed ; but when she looked round to scold the middle-aged 
farmer, he appeared so entirely composed that she hesitated. 
He said — 

" I have pleased myseV, and thee too, I hope. Is it a month's 
wage, and a month's warning? To-day is the eighth. July 
eighth is our wedding-day. I have no time to spend a-wooing 



420 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

before then, and wedding must na take long. Two days is 
enough to throw away, at our time o' life." 

It was like a dream ; but Hester resolved not to think more 
about it till her work was done. And when all was cleaned up 
for the evening, she went and gave her mistress warning, telling 
her all the history of her life in a very few words. That day 
month she was married from Mrs. Thompson's house. 

The issue of the marriage was one boy, Benjamin. A few 
years after his birth, Hester's brother died at Leeds, leaving 
ten or twelve children. Hester sorrowed bitterly over this loss ; 
and Nathan showed her much quiet sympathy, although he 
could not but remember that Jack Rose had added insult to 
the bitterness of his youth. He helped his wife to make ready 
to go by the waggon to Leeds. He made light of the household 
difficulties, which came thronging into her mind after all was 
fixed for her departure. He filled her purse, that she might 
have wherewithal to alleviate the immediate wants of her 
brother's family. And as she was leaving, he ran after the 
waggon. "Stop, stop!" he cried. "Hetty, if thou wilt^if 
it wunnot be too much for thee — bring back one of Jack's 
wenches for company, like. We've enough and to spare ; and 
a lass will make the house winsome, as a man may say." 

The waggon moved on ; while Hester had such a silent 
swelling of gratitude in her heart, as was both thanks to her 
husband, and thanksgiving to God. 

And that was the way that little Bessy Rose came to be an 
inmate of the Nab's-End Farm. 

Virtue met with its own reward in this instance, and in a 
clear and tangible shape, too, which need not delude people 
in general into thinking that such is the usual nature of virtue's 
rewards. Bessy grew up a bright, affectionate, active girl ; a 
daily comfort to her uncle and aunt. She was so much a 
darling in the household that they even thought her worthy 
of their only son Benjamin, who was perfection in their eyes. 
It is not often the case that two plain, homely people have a 
child of uncommon beauty ; but it is so sometimes, and Ben- 
jamin Huntroyd was one of these exceptional cases. The hard- 
working, labour-and-care-marked farmer, and the mother, who 
could never have been more than tolerably comely in her best 
days, produced a boy who might have been an earl's son for 
grace and beauty. Even the hunting squires of the neighbour- 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 421 

hood reined up their horses to admire him, as he opened the 
gates for them. He had no shyness, he was so accustomed to 
admiration from strangers and adoration from his parents from 
his earUest years. As for Bessy Rose, he ruled imperiously 
over her heart from the time she first set eyes on him. And 
as she grew older, she grew on in loving, persuading herself 
that what her uncle and aunt loved so dearly it was her duty 
to love dearest of all. At every unconscious symptom of the 
young girl's love for her cousin, his parents smiled and winked : 
all was going on as they wished, no need to go far afield for 
Benjamin's wife. The household could go on as it was now ; 
Nathan and Hester sinking into the rest of years, and relin- 
quishing care and authority to those dear ones, who, in process 
of time, might bring other dear ones to share their love. 

But Benjamin took it all very coolly. He had been sent to a 
day-school in the neighbouring town — a grammar-school, in the 
high state of neglect in which the majority of such schools were 
thirty years ago. Neither his father nor his mother knew much 
of learning. All they knew (and that directed their choice of a 
school) was that they could not, by any possibility, part with 
their darHng to a boarding-school; that some schooling he 
must have, and that Squire Pollard's son went to Highminster 
Grammar School. Squire Pollard's son, and many another 
son destined to make his parents' hearts ache, went to this 
school. If it had not been so utterly bad a place of education, 
the simple farmer and his wife might have found it out sooner. 
But not only did the pupils there learn vice, they also learnt 
deceit. Benjamin was naturally too clever to remain a dunce, 
or else, if he had chosen so to be, there was nothing in High- 
minster Grammar School to hinder his being a dunce of the 
first water. But, to all appearance, he grew clever and gentle- 
man-like. His father and mother were even proud of his airs 
and graces, when he came home for the holidays ; taking them 
for proofs of his refinement, although the practical effect of 
such refinement was to make him express his contempt for his 
parents' homely ways and simple ignorance. By the time he 
was eighteen, an articled clerk in an attorney's office at High- 
minster,— for he had quite declined becoming a "mere clod- 
hopper," that is to say, a hard-working, honest farmer like his 
father — Bessy Rose was the only person who was dissatisfied 
with him. The little girl of fourteen instinctively felt there was 



422 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

something wrong about him. Alas ! two years more, and the 
girl of sixteen worshipped his very shadow, and would not see 
that aught could be wrong with one so soft-spoken, so hand- 
some, so kind as Cousin Benjamin. For Benjamin had dis- 
covered that the way to cajole his parents out of money for 
every indulgence he fancied, was to pretend to forward their 
innocent scheme, and make love to his pretty cousin, Bessy 
Rose. He cared just enough for her to make this work of 
necessity not disagreeable at the time he was performing it. 
But he found it tiresome to remember her little claims upon 
him, when she was no longer present. The letters he had 
promised her during his weekly absence at Highminster, the 
trifling commissions she had asked him to do for her, were all 
considered in the light of troubles ; and even when he was 
with her, he resented the inquiries she made as to his mode 
of passing his time, or what female acquaintances he had in 
Highminster. 

When his apprenticeship was ended, nothing would serve 
him but that he must go up to London for a year or two. 
Poor Farmer Huntroyd was beginning to repent of his ambi- 
tion of making his son Benjamin a gentleman. But it was too 
late to repine now. Both father and mother felt this, and, 
however sorrowful they might be, they were silent, neither 
demurring nor assenting to Benjamin's proposition when first 
he made it. But Bessy, through her tears, noticed that both 
her uncle and aunt seemed unusually tired that night, and sat 
hand-in-hand on the fireside settle, idly gazing into the bright 
flame, as if they saw in it pictures of what they had once hoped 
their lives would have been. Bessy rattled about among the supper 
things, as she put them away after Benjamin's departure, 
making more noise than usual — as if noise and bustle was 
what she needed to keep her from bursting out crying — and, 
having at one keen glance taken in the position and looks of 
Nathan and Hester, she avoided looking in that direction 
again, for fear the sight of their wistful faces should make 
her own tears overflow. 

"Sit thee down, lass — sit thee down. Bring the creepie- 
stool to the fireside, and let's have a bit of talk over the lad's 
plans," said Nathan, at last rousing himself to speak. Bessy 
came and sat down in front of the fire, and threw her apron 
over her face, as she rested her head on both hands. Nathan 



i 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 423 

felt as if it was a chance which of the two women burst out 
crying first. So he thought he would speak, in hopes of keep- 
ing off the infection of tears. 

" Didst ever hear of this mad plan afore, Bessy? " 

"No, never!" Her voice came muffled and changed from 
under her apron. Hester felt as if the tone, both of question 
and answer, implied blame, and this she could not bear. 

"We should ha' looked to it when we bound him, for of 
necessity it would ha' come to this. There's examins, and 
catechizes, and I dunno what all for him to be put through 
in London. It's not his fault." 

"Which on us said it were?" asked Nathan, rather put 
out. " Thof, for that matter, a few weeks would caiTy him 
over the mire, and make him as good a lawyer as any judge 
among 'em. Oud Lawson the attorney told me that, in a 
talk I had wi' him a bit sin. Na, na ! it's the lad's own 
hankering after London that makes him want for to stay there 
for a year, let alone two." 

Nathan shook his head. 

"And if it be his own hankering," said Bessy, putting down 
her apron, her face all flame, and her eyes swollen up, "I 
dunnot see harm in it. Lads aren't like lasses, to be teed 
to their own fireside like th' crook yonder. It's fitting for a 
young man to go abroad and see the world afore he settles 
down." 

Hester's hand sought Bessy's, and the two women sat in 
sympathetic defiance of any blame that should be thrown on 
the beloved absent. Nathan only said — 

"Nay, wench, dunnot wax up so; whatten's done's done; 
and worse, it's my doing. I mun needs make my bairn a 
gentleman ; and we mun pay for it." 

" Dear uncle ! he wunna spend much, I'll answer for it ; and 
I'll scrimp and save i' the house to make it good." 

"Wench!" said Nathan solemnly, "it were not paying in 
cash I were speaking on : it were paying in heart's care, and 
heaviness of soul. Lunnon is a place where the devil keeps 
court as well as King George; and my poor chap has more 
nor once welly fallen into his clutches here. I dunno what 
he'll do when he gets close within sniff of him." 

"Don't let him go, father!" said Hester, for the first time 
taking this view. Hitherto she had only thought of her own 



424 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

grief at parting with him. " Father, if you think so, keep him 
here, safe under our own eye. " 

" Nay ! " said Nathan, " he's past time o' hfe for that. Why, 
there's not one on us knows where he is at this present time, 
and he not gone out of our sight an hour. He's too big to 
be put back i' th* go-cart, mother, or keep within doors with 
tlie chair turned bottom upwards." 

' ' I wish he were a wee bairn lying in my arms again. It 
were a sore day when I weaned him ; and I think hfe's been 
gettin' sorer and sorer at every turn he's ta'en towards man- 
hood." 

" Coom, lass, that's noan the way to be talking. Be thank- 
ful to Marcy that thou'st getten a man for thy son as stands 
five foot eleven in's stockings, and ne'er a sick piece about 
him. We wunnot grudge him his fling, will we, Bess, my 
wench? He'll be coming back in a year, or, may be, a bit 
more ; and be a' for settling in a quiet town like, wi' a wife 
that's noan so fur fra' me at this very minute. An' we oud folk, 
as we get into years, must gi' up farm, and tak a bit on a 
house near Lawyer Benjamin." 

And so the good Nathan, his own heart heavy enough, tried 
to soothe his womenkind. But of the three, his eyes were 
longest in closing, his apprehensions the deepest founded. 

"I misdoubt me I hanna done well by th' lad. I misdoubt 
me sore," was the thought that kept him awake till day began 
to dawn. "Summat's wrong about him, or folk would na 
look at me wi' such piteous-like een when they speak on him. 
I can see th' meaning of it, thof I'm too proud to let on. And 
Lawson, too, he holds his tongue more nor he should do, 
when I ax him how my lad's getting on, and whatten sort of 
a lawyer he'll mak. God be marciful to Hester an' me, if 
th' lad's gone away ! God be marciful ! But may be it's this 
lying waking a' the night through, that maks me so fearfu'. 
Why, when I were his age, I daur be bound I should ha* spent 
money fast enoof, i' I could ha' come by it. But I had to arn it ; 
that maks a great differ'. Well ! It were hard to thwart th' 
child of our old age, and we waitin' so long for to have 'un ! " 

Next morning, Nathan rode Moggy, the cart-horse, into 
Highminster to see Mr. Lawson. Anybody who saw him 
ride out of his own yard would have been struck with the 
change in him which was visible when he returned ; a change, 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 425 

more than a day's unusual exercise should have made in a man 
of his years. He scarcely held the reins at all. One jerk of 
Moggy's head would have plucked them out of his hands. His 
head was bent forward, his eyes looking on some unseen thing, 
with long unwinking gaze. But as he drew near home on his 
return, he made an effort to recover himself. 

" No need fretting them," he said ; " lads will be lads. But 
I didna think he had it in him to be so thowtless, young as 
he is. Well, well ! he'll, may be, get more wisdom i' Lunnon. 
Anyways it's best to cut him off fra such evil lads as Will 
Hawker, and such-like. It's they as have led my boy astray. 
He were a good chap till he knowed them — a good chap till 
he knowed them." 

But he put all his cares in the background when he came 
into the house-place, where both Bessy and his wife met him 
at the door, and both would fain lend a hand to take off his 
great-coat. 

"Theer, wenches, theer ! ye might let a man alone for to 
get out on's clothes! Why, I might ha' struck thee, lass," 
And he went on talking, trying to keep them off for a time 
from the subject that all had at heart. But there was no 
putting them off for ever ; and, by dint of repeated question- 
ing on his wife's part, more was got out than he had ever 
meant to tell — enough to grieve both his hearers sorely : and 
yet the brave old man still kept the worst in his own breast. 

The next day Benjamin came home for a week or two, 
before making his great start to London. His father kept 
him at a distance, and was solemn and quiet in his manner 
to the young man. Bessy, who had shown anger enough at 
first, and had uttered many a sharp speech, began to relent, 
and then to feel hurt and displeased that her uncle should 
persevere so long in his cold, reserved manner, and Benjamin 
just going to leave them. Her aunt went, tremblingly busy, 
about the clothes-presses and drawers, as if afraid of letting 
herself think either of the past or the future ; only once or 
twice, coming behind her son, she suddenly stopped over his 
sitting figure, and kissed his cheek, and stroked his hair. 
Bessy remembered afterwards — long years afterwards — how he 
had tossed his head away with nervous irritability on one of 
these occasions, and had muttered— her aunt did not hear it, 
but Bessy did — 

02 



426 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

" Can't you leave a man alone? " 

Towards Bessy herself he was pretty gracious. No other 
words express his manner : it was nat warm, nor tender, nor 
cousinly, but there was an assumption of underbred polite- 
ness towards her as a young, pretty woman ; which politeness 
was neglected in his authoritative or grumbling manner to- 
wards his mother, or his sullen silence before his father. 
He once or twice ventured on a compliment to Bessy on her 
personal appearance. She stood still, and looked at him with 
astonishment. 

"How's my eyes changed sin' last thou saw'st them," she 
asked, " that thou must be telling me about 'em i' that fashion? 
I'd rayther by a deal see thee helping thy mother when she's 
dropped her knitting-needle and canna see i' th' dusk for to 
pick it up." 

But Bessy thought of his pretty speech about her eyes long 
after he had forgotten making it, and would have been puzzled 
to tell the colour of them. Many a day, after he was gone, 
did she look earnestly in the little oblong looking-glass, which 
hung up against the wall of her little sleeping-chamber, but 
which she used to take down in order to examine the eyes 
he had praised, murmuring to herself, " Pretty soft grey eyes ! 
Pretty soft grey eyes ! " until she would hang up the glass again 
with a sudden laugh and a rosy blush. 

In the days when he had gone away to the vague distance 
and vaguer place — the city called London— Bessy tried to for- 
get all that had gone against her feeling of the affection and 
duty that a son owed to his parents ; and she had many things 
to forget of this kind that would keep surging up into her 
mind. For instance, she wished that he had not objected to 
the home-spun, home-made shirts which his mother and she 
had had such pleasure in getting ready for him. He might 
not know, it was true— and so her love urged — how carefully 
and evenly the thread had been spun : how, not content with 
bleaching the yarn in the sunniest meadow, the linen, on its 
return from the weaver's,, had been spread out afresh on the 
sweet summer grass, and watered carefully night after night 
when there was no dew to perform the kindly office. He did 
not know— for no one but Bessy herself did — how many false 
or large stitches, made large and false by her aunt's faihng 
eyes (who yet liked to do the choicest part of the stitching all 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 42/ 

by herself), Bessy had unpicked at night in her own room, 
and with dainty fingers had restitched ; sewing eagerly in the 
dead of night. All this he did not know ; or he could never 
have complained of the coarse texture, the old-fashioned make 
of these shirts ; and urged on his mother to give him part 
of her little store of egg and butter money in order to buy 
newer-fashioned linen in Highminster. 

When once that little precious store of his mother's was 
discovered, it was well for Bessy's peace of mind that she did 
not know how loosely her aunt counted up the coins, mistaking 
guineas for shillings, or just the other way, so that the amount 
was seldom the same in the old black spoutless teapot. Yet 
this son, this hope, this love, had still a strange power of 
fascination over the household. The evening before he left, 
he sat between his parents, a hand in theirs on either side, 
and Bessy on the old creepie-stool, her head lying on her 
aunt's knee, and looking up at him from time to time, as if 
to learn his face off by heart ; till his glances meeting hers, 
made her drop her eyes, and only sigh. 

He stopped up late that night with his father, long after the 
women had gone to bed. But not to sleep ; for I will answer 
for it the grey-haired mother never slept a wink till the late 
dawn of the autumn day ; and Bessy heard her uncle come 
upstairs with heavy, deliberate footsteps, and go to the old 
stocking which served him for bank, and count out the golden 
guineas ; once he stopped, but again he went on afresh, as if 
resolved to crown his gift with liberality. Another long pause 
— in which she could but indistinctly hear continued words, it 
might have been advice, it might be a prayer, for it was in 
her uncle's voice — and then father and son came up to bed. 
Bessy's room was but parted from her cousin's by a thin wooden 
partition ; and the last sound she distinctly heard, before her 
eyes, tired out with crying, closed themselves in sleep, was the 
guineas clinking down upon each other at regular intervals, 
as if Benjamin were playing at pitch and toss with his father's 
present. 

After he was gone, Bessy wished he had asked her to walk 
part of the way with him into Highminster. She was all ready, 
her things laid out on the bed ; but she could not accompany 
him without invitation. 

The little household tried to close over the gap as best they 



428 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

might. They seemed to set themselves to their daily work with 
unusual vigour ; but somehow when evening came there had 
been little done. Heavy hearts never make light work, and 
there was no telling how much care and anxiety each had had 
to bear in secret in the field, at the wheel, or in the dairy. 
Formerly he was looked for every Saturday — looked for, though 
he might not come ; or if he came, there were things to be 
spoken about that made his visit anything but a pleasure : still 
he might come, and all things might go right ; and then what 
sunshine, what gladness to those humble people ! But now he 
was away, and dreary winter was come on ; old folks' sight 
fails, and the evenings were long, and sad, in spite of all Bessy 
could do or say. And he did not write so often as he might — 
so every one thought ; though every one would have been ready 
to defend him from either of the others who had expressed such 
a thought aloud. "Surely," said Bessy to herself, when the first 
primroses peeped out in a sheltered and sunny hedge-bank, and 
she gathered them as she passed home from afternoon church 
— "surely, there never will be such a dreary, miserable winter 
again as this has been." There had been a great change in 
Nathan and Hester Huntroyd during this last year. The spring 
before, when Benjamin was yet the subject of more hopes than 
fears, his father and mother looked what I may call an elderly 
middle-aged couple : people who had a good deal of hearty 
work in them yet. Now — it was not his absence alone that 
caused the change — they looked frail and old, as if each day's 
natural trouble was a burden more than they could bear. For 
Nathan had heard sad reports about his only child, and had 
told them solemnly to his wife, as things too bad to be believed, 
and yet, " God help us if he is indeed such a lad as this ! " 
Their eyes were become too dry and hollow for many tears ; 
they sat together, hand in hand ; and shivered, and sighed, and 
did not speak many words, or dare to look at each other : and 
then Hester had said — 

"We mauna tell th' lass. Young folks' hearts break wi' a 
little, and she'd be apt to fancy it were true." Here the old 
woman's voice broke into a kind of piping cry, but she struggled, 
and her next words were all right. " We mauna tell her; he's 
bound to be fond on her, and, may be, if she thinks well on him. 
and loves him, it will bring him straight ! " 

•' God grant it ! " said Nathan. 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 429 

"God shall grant it!" said Hester, passionately moaning 
out her words ; and then repeating them, alas ! with a vain 
repetition. 

"It's a bad place for lying, is Highminster," said she at 
length, as if impatient of the silence. "I never knowed such 
a place for getting up stories. But Bessy knows nought on, 
and nother you nor me belie'es 'em, that's one blessing." 

But if they did not in their hearts believe them, how came 
they to look so sad, and worn, beyond what mere age could 
make them ? 

Then came round another year, another winter, yet more 
miserable than the last. This year, with the primroses, came 
Benjamin; a bad, hard, flippant young man, with yet enough 
of specious manners and handsome countenance to make his 
appearance striking at first to those to whom the aspect of a 
London fast young man of the lowest order is strange and 
new. Just at first, as he sauntered in with a swagger and an 
air of indifference, which was partly assumed, partly real, his 
old parents felt a simple kind of awe of him, as if he were not 
their son, but a real gentleman ; but they had too much fine 
instinct in their homely natures not to know, after a very few 
minutes had passed, that this was not a true prince. 

" Whatten ever does he mean," said Hester to her niece, as 
soon as they were alone, "by a them maks and wearlocks? 
And he minces his words as if his tongue were clipped short, 
or split like a magpie's. Hech ! London is as bad as a hot 
day i' August for spoiling good flesh ; for he were a good- 
looking lad when he went up ; and now, look at him, with his 
skin gone into lines and flourishes, just like the first page on 
a copybook." 

"I think he looks a good deal better, aunt, for them new- 
fashioned whiskers ! " said Bessy, blushing still at the remem- 
brance of the kiss he had given her on first seeing her — a 
pledge, she thought, poor girl, that, in spite of his long silence 
in letter-writing, he still looked upon her as his troth-plight 
wife. There were things about him which none 'of them liked, 
although they never spoke of them ; yet there was also some- 
thing to gratify them in the way in which he remained quiet 
at Nab-End, instead of seeking variety, as he had formerly 
done, by constantly stealing off to the neighbouring town. 
His father had paid all the debts that he knew of, soon after 



430 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

Benjamin had gone up to London ; so there were no duns 
that his parents knew to alarm him, and keep him at home. 
And he went out in the morning with the old man, his father, 
and lounged by his side, as Nathan went round his fields, 
with busy yet infirm gait, having heart, as he would have 
expressed it, in all that was going on, because at length his 
son seemed to take an interest in the farming affairs, and 
stood patiently by his side while he compared his own small 
galloways with the great shorthorns looming over his neigh- 
bour's hedge. 

"It's a slovenly way, thou seest, that of selling th' milk; 
folk don't care whether it's good or not, so that they get 
their pint-measure full of stuff that's watered afore its leaves 
th' beast, instead o' honest cheating by the help o' th' pump. 
But look at Bessy's butter, what skill it shows ! part her 
own manner o' making, and part good choice o' cattle. It's 
a pleasure to see her basket, a' packed ready for to go to 
market ; and it's noan o' a pleasure for to see the buckets 
fu' of their blue starch-water as yon beasts give. I'm thinking 
they crossed th' breed wi' a pump not long sin'. Hech 1 
but our Bessy's a clever canny wench ! I sometimes think 
thou'lt be for gie'ing up th' law, and taking to th' oud trade, 
when thou wedst wi' her ! " This was intended to be a 
skilful way of ascertaining whether there was any ground 
for the old farmer's wish and prayer that Benjamin might 
give up the law and return to the primitive occupation of his 
father. Nathan dared to hope it now, since his son had never 
made much by his profession, owing, as he had said, to his want 
of a connection : and the farm, and the stock, and the clean 
wife, too, were ready to liis hand ; and Nathan could safely 
rely on himself never in his most unguarded moments to 
reproach his son with the hardly - earned hundreds that had 
been spent on his education. So the old man hstened with 
painful interest to the answer which his son was evidently 
struggling to make ; coughing a little, and blowing his nose 
before he spoke. 

"Well! you see, father, law is a precarious livelihood; 
a man, as I may express myself, has no chance in the pro- 
fession unless he is known — known to the judges, and tip-top 
barristers, and that sort of thing. Now, you see, my mother 
and you have no acquaintance that you may call exactly in 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 431 

that line. But luckily I have met with a man, a friend, as 
I may say, who is really a first-rate fellow, knowing everybody, 
from the Lord Chancellor downwards ; and he has offered me 

a share in his business — a partnership, in short" He 

hesitated a Httle. 

"I'm sure that's uncommon kind of the gentleman," said 
Nathan. " I should like for to thank him mysen ; for it's 
not many as would pick up a young chap out o' th' dirt 
c!s it were, and say ' Here's hauf my good fortune for you, 
sir, and your very good health.' Most on 'em, when they're 
get: in' a bit o' luck, run off wi' it to keep it a' to themselves, 
and gobble it down in a corner. What may be his name, for I 
shou'd like to know it ? " 

"You don't quite apprehend me, father. A great deal of 
what you've said is true to the letter. People don't like to 
share their good luck, as you say." 

"The more credit to them as does," broke in Nathan. 

"Ay, but, you see, even such a fine fellow as my friend 
Cavendish does not like to give away half his good practice 
for nothing. He expects an equivalent." 

"An equivalent," said Nathan : his voice had dropped down 
an octave. "And what may that be? There's always some 
meaning in grand words, I take it, though I am not book-larned 
enough to find it out." 

" Why, in this case, the equivalent he demands for taking me 
into partnership, and afterwards relinquishing the whole business 
to me, is three hundred pounds down." 

Benjamin looked sideways from under his eyes to see how 
his father took the proposition. His father struck his stick 
deep down in the ground, and leaning one hand upon it, faced 
round at him. 

"Then thy fine friend may go and be hanged. Three 
hunder pound ! I'll be darned an' danged too, if I know 
where to get 'em, if I'd be making a fool o' thee an* mysen 
too." 

He was out of breath by this time. His son took his 
father's first words in dogged silence ; it was but the burst of 
surprise he had led himself to expect, and did not daunt him 
for long. 

" I should think, sir" — — 

"'Sir' — whatten for dost thou 'sir' me? Is them vour 



432 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

manners? I'm plain Nathan Huntroyd, who never took on to 
be a gentleman ; but I have paid my way up to this time, 
which I shannot do much longer, if I'm to have a son coming 
an' asking me for three hundred pound, just meet same as if I 
were a cow, and had nothing to do but let down my milk to the 
first person as strokes me." 

"Well, father," said Benjamin, with an affectation of frank- 
ness, "then there's nothing for me, but to do as I have often 
planned before — go and emigrate." 

"And what?" said his father, looking sharply and steadily 
at him. 

" Emigrate. Go to America, or India, or some colony 
where there would be an opening for a young man of 
spirit." 

Benjamin had reserved this proposition for his trump card, 
expecting by means of it to carry all before him. But, 
to his surprise, his father plucked his stick out of the hole 
he had made when he so vehemently thrust it into the 
ground, and walked on four or five steps in advance ; there 
he stood still again, and there was a dead silence for a few 
minutes. 

"It 'ud, may be, be the best thing thou couldst do," the 
father began. Benjamin set his teeth hard to keep in curses. 
It was well for poor Nathan he did not look round then, 
and see the look his son gave him. " But it would come 
hard like upon us, upon Hester and me, for, whether thou'rt 
a good 'un or not, thou'rt our flesh and blood, our only 
bairn, and if thou'rt not all as a man could wish, it's, may be, 

been the fault on our pride i' the It 'ud kill the missus 

if he went off to Amerikay, and Bess, too, the lass as thinks so 
much on him ! " The speech, originally addressed to his son, 
had wandered off into a monologue— as keenly hstened to by 
Benjamin, however, as if it had all been spoken to him. After 
a pause of consideration, his father turned round: "Yon man 
— I wunnot call him a friend o' yourn, to think of asking you 
for such a mint o' money — is not th' only one, I'll be bound, 
as could give ye a start i' the law ? Other folks 'ud, may be, do 
it for less?" 

"Not one of 'em ; to give me equal advantages," said Ben- 
jamin, thinking he perceived signs of relenting. 

" Well, then, thou may'st tell him that it's nother he nor thee 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 433 

as '11 see th' sight o' three hundred pound o' my money. I'll 
not deny as I've a bit laid up again a rainy day ; it's not so 
much as thatten though, and a part on it is for Bessy, as has 
been like a daughter to us." 

" But Bessy is to be your real daughter some day, when I've 
a home to take her to," said Benjamin ; for he played very 
fast and loose, even in his own mind, with his engagement 
with Bessy. Present with her, when she was looking her 
brightest and best, he behaved to her as if they were engaged 
lovers ; absent from her, he looked upon her rather as a good 
wedge, to be driven into his parents' favour on his behalf. 
Now, however, he was not exactly untrue in speaking as if he 
meant to make her his wife ; for the thought was in his mind, 
though he made use of it to work upon his father. 

" It will be a dree day for us, then," said the old man. " But 
God '11 have us in his keeping, and '11, may-happen, be taking 
more care on us i' heaven by that time than Bess, good lass 
as she is, has had on us at Nab-End. Her heart is set on 
thee, too. But, lad, I hanna gotten the three hunder ; I keeps 
my cash i' th' stocking, thou know'st, till it reaches fifty pound, 
and then I takes it to Ripon Bank. Now the last scratch 
they'n gi'en me made it just two hunder, and I hanna but on 
to fifteen pound yet i' the stockin', and I meant one hunder 
an' the red cow's calf to be for Bess, she's ta'en such pleasure 
like i' rearing it." 

Benjamin gave a sharp glance at his father to see if he was 
teUing the truth ; and that a suspicion of the old man, his 
father, had entered into the son's head, tells enough of his ow'n 
character. 

" I canna do it, I canna do it, for sure, although I shall like 
to think as I had helped on the wedding. There's the black 
heifer to be sold yet, and she'll fetch a matter of ten pound ; 
but a deal on't will be needed for seed-corn, for the arable did 
but bad last year, and I thought I would try ; I'll tell thee 
what, lad ! I'll make it as though Bess lent thee her hunder, 
only thou must give her a writ of hand for it, and thou shalt 
have a' the money i' Ripon Bank, and see if the lawyer wunnot 
let thee have a share of what he offered thee at three hunder 
for two. I dunnot mean for to wrong him, but thou must 
get a fair share for the money. At times I think thou'rt 
done by folk ; now, I wadna have you cheat a bairn of a 



434 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

brass farthing; same time I wadna have thee so soft as to 
be cheated." 

To explain this, it should be told that some of the bills which 
Benjamin had received money from his father to pay, had been 
altered so as to cover other and less creditable expenses which 
the young man had incurred ; and the simple old farmer, who 
had still much faith left in him for his boy, was acute enough 
to perceive that he had paid above the usual price for the 
articles he had purchased. 

After some hesitation, Benjamin agreed to receive the two 
hundred, and promised to employ it to the best advantage in 
setting himself up in business. He had, nevertheless, a strange 
hankering after the additional fifteen pounds that was left to 
accumulate in the stocking. It was his, he thought, as heir 
to his father ; and he soon lost some of his usual complaisance 
for Bessy that evening, as he dwelt on the idea that there was 
money being laid by for her, and grudged it to her even in 
imagination. He thought more of this fifteen pounds that he 
was not to have than of all the hardly-earned and humbly- 
saved two hundred that he was to come into possession of. 
Meanwhile, Nathan was in unusual spirits that evening. He 
was so generous and affectionate at heart, that he had an 
unconscious satisfaction in having helped two people on the 
road to happiness by the sacrifice of the greater part of his 
property. The very fact of having trusted his son so largely, 
seemed to make Benjamin more worthy of trust in his father's 
estimation. The sole idea he tried to banish was, that, if all 
came to pass as he hoped, both Benjamin and Bessy would 
be settled far away from Nab- End ; but then he had a child- 
like reliance that "God would take care of him and his 
missus, somehow or anodder. It wur o' no use looking too 
far ahead." 

Bessy had to hear many unintelligible jokes from her uncle 
that night ; for he made no doubt that Benjamin had told her 
all that had passed, whereas the truth was, his son had said 
never a word to his cousin on the subject. 

When the old couple were in bed, Nathan told his wife of 
the promise he had made to his son, and the plan in life which 
the advance of the two hundred was to promote. Poor Hester 
was a httle startled at the sudden change in the destination of 
the sum, which she had long thought of with secret pride ss 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 43^ 

•' money i' th' bank." But she was willing enough to part with 
it, if necessary, for Benjamin. Only, how such a sum could 
be necessary, was the puzzle. But even this perplexity was 
jostled out of her mind by the overwhelming idea, not only 
of "our Ben" settling in London, but of Bessy going there 
too as his wife. This great trouble swallowed up all care 
about money, and Hester shivered and sighed all the night 
through v/ith distress. In the morning, as Bessy was kneading 
the bread, her aunt, who had been sitting by the fire in an 
unusual manner, for one of her active habits, said — 

" I reckon we maun go to th' shop for our bread, an' that's a 
thing I never thought to come to so long as I lived." 

Bessy looked up from her kneading, surprised. 

"I'm sure, I'm noan going to eat their nasty stuff. What 
for do ye want to get baker's bread, aunt? This dough 
will rise as high as a kite in a south wind." 

"I'm not up to kneading as I could do once; it welly 
breaks my back ; and when thou'rt off in London, I reckon 
we maun buy our bread, first time in my life." 

"I'm not a-going to London," said Bessy, kneading away 
with fresh resolution, and growing very red, either with the 
idea or the exertion. 

" But our Ben is going partner wi' a great London lawyer, 
and thou know'st he'll not tarry long but what he'll fetch 
thee." 

"Now, aunt," said Bessy, stripping her arms of the dough, 
but still not looking up, "if that's all, don't fret yourself. 
Ben will have twenty minds in his head afore he settles, 
eyther in business or in wedlock. I sometimes wonder," 
she said, with increasing vehemence, "why I go on thinking 
on him ; for I dunnot think he thinks on me, when I'm 
out o' sight. I've a month's mind to try and forget him 
this time when he leaves us — that I have ! " 

"For shame, wench! and he to be planning and purpos- 
ing all for thy sake. It wur only yesterday as he v,ur 
talking to thy uncle, and mapping it out so clever; only 
thou seest, wench, it'll be dree work for us when both thee 
and him is gone." 

The old woman began to cry the kind of tearless cry 
of the aged. Bessy hastened to comfort her ; and the two 
talked, and grieved, and hoped, and planned for the days 



436 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

that now were to be, till they ended, the one in being consoled, 
the oiher in being secretly happy. 

Nathan and his son came back from Highminster that 
evening, with their business transacted in the roundabout 
way which was most satisfactory to the old man. If he 
had thought it necessary to take half as much pains in 
ascertaining the truth of the plausible details by which his son 
bore out the story of the offered partnership as he did 
in trying to get his money conveyed to London in the 
most secure manner, it would have been well for him. But 
he knew nothing of all this, and acted in the way which 
satisfied his anxiety best. He came home tired, but content ; 
not in such high spirits as on the night before, but as easy 
in his mind as he could be on the eve of his son's departure. 
Bessy, pleasantly agitated by her aunt's tale of the morning 
of her cousin's true love for her— what ardently we wish 
we long believe — and the plan which was to end in their 
marriage — end to her, the woman, at least — Bessy looked 
almost pretty in her bright, blushing comehness, and more 
than once, as she moved about from kitchen to dairy, 
Benjamin pulled her towards him, and gave her a kiss. 
To all such proceedings the old couple were wilfully blind ; 
and, as night drew on, every one became sadder and quieter, 
thinking of the parting that was to be on the morrow. As 
the hours slipped away, Bessy too became subdued ; and, 
by-and-by, her simple cunning was exerted to get Benjamin 
to sit down next his mother, whose very heart was yearning 
after him, as Bessy saw. When once her child was placed 
by her side and she had got possession of his hand, the 
old woman kept stroking it, and murmuring long unused 
words of endearment, such as she had spoken to him while 
he was yet a little child. But all this was wearisome to 
him. As long as he might play with, and plague, and 
caress Bessy, he had not been sleepy ; but now he yawned 
loudly. Bessy could have boxed his ears for not curbing 
this gaping ; at any rate, he need not have done it so 
openly — so almost ostentatiously. His mother was more 
pitiful. 

" Thou'rt tired, my lad!" said she, putting her hand 
fondly on his shoulder; but it fell off, as he stood up sud- 
denly, and said — 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 43/ 

**Yes, deuced tired! I'm off to bed." And with a rough, 
careless kiss all round, even to Bessy, as if he was "deuced 
tired " of playing the lover, he was gone ; leaving the three 
to gather up their thoughts slowly, and follow him upstairs. 

He seemed almost impatient at them for rising betimes 
to see him off the next morning, and made no more of a 
good-bye than some such speech as this: "Well, good folk, 
when next I see you, I hope you'll have merrier faces than 
you have to-day. Why, you might be going to a funeral r 
it's enough to scare a man from the place ; you look quite 
ugly to what you did last night, Bess." 

He was gone ; and they turned into the house, and 
settled to the long day's work without many words about 
their loss. They had no time for unnecessary talking, indeed, 
for much had been left undone, during his short visit, that 
ought to have been done ; and they had now to work double 
tides. Hard work was their comfort for many a long^ 
day. 

For some time Benjamin's letters, if not frequent, were 
full of exultant accounts of his well-doing. It is true that 
the details of his prosperity were somewhat vague ; but 
the fact was broadly and unmistakably stated. Then came 
longer pauses ; shorter letters, altered in tone. About a 
year after he had left them, Nathan received a letter which 
bewildered and irritated him exceedingly. Something had 
gone wrong — what, Benjamin did not say — but the letter 
ended with a request that was almost a demand, for the 
remainder of his father's savings, whether in the stocking 
or the bank. Now, the year had not been prosperous with 
Nathan ; there had been an epidemic among cattle, and he 
had suffered along with his neighbours ; and, moreover, the 
price of cows, when he had bought some to repair his wasted 
stock, was higher than he had ever remembered it before. 
The fifteen pounds in the stocking, which Benjamin left, 
had diminished to Httle more than three ; and to have that 
required of him in so peremptory a manner ! Before Nathan 
imparted the contents of this letter to any one (Bessy and 
her aunt had gone to market on a neighbour's cart that 
day), he got pen and ink and paper, and wrote back an 
ill-spelt, but very exphcit and stern negative. Benjamin 
had had his portion ; and if he could not make it do, so 



43^ THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

much tlie worse for him ; his father had no more to give 
him. That was the substance of the letter. 

The letter was written, directed, and sealed, and given 
to the country postman, returning to Highminster after 
his day's distribution and collection of letters, before Hester 
and Bessy came back from market. It had been a pleasant 
day of neighbourly meeting and sociable gossip : prices had 
been high, and they were in good spirits, only agreeably 
tired, and full of small pieces of news. It was some time 
before they found out how flatly all their talk fell on the 
ears of the stay-at-home listener. But when they saw that his 
depression was caused by something beyond their powers 
of accounting for by any little every-day cause, they urged 
him to tell them what was the matter. His anger had not 
gone off. It had rather increased by dwelUng upon it, and 
he spoke it out in good, resolute terms ; and, long ere he 
had ended, the two women were as sad, if not as angry, 
as himself. Indeed, it was many days before either feeling 
wore away in the minds of those who entertained them. 
Bessy was the soonest comforted, because she found a vent 
for her sorrow in action ; action that was half as a kind of 
compensation for many a sharp word that she had spoken 
when her cousin had done anything to displease her on 
his last visit, and half because she believed that he never 
could have written such a letter to his father unless his want 
of money had been very pressing and real ; though how 
he could ever have wanted money so soon, after such a 
heap of it had been given to him, was more than she could 
justly say. Bessy got out all her savings of little presents 
of sixpences and shiUings, ever since she had been a child, — 
of all the money she had gained for the eggs of two hens, 
called her own ; she put the whole together, and it was above 
two pounds — two pounds five and sevenpence, to speak 
accurately — and leaving out the penny as a nest-egg for 
her future savings, she made up the rest in a little parcel^ 
and sent it, with a note, to Benjamin's address in London: — 

" From a well-wisher. 
" D^ Benjamin,— Unkle has lost 2 cows and a vast of 
monney. He is a good deal An gored, but more Troubled. 
So no more at present. Hopeing this will finding you well 



THE CROOKED BRANCH. 439 

As it leaves us. Tho' lost to Site, To Memory Dear. Re- 
payment not kneeded. — Your effectonet cousin, 

" Elizabeth Rose." 

When this packet was once fairly sent off, Bessy began to 
sing again over her work. She never expected the mere 
form of acknowledgment ; indeed, she had such faith in the 
carrier (who took parcels to York, whence they wer^ for- 
warded to London by coach), that she felt sure he would go 
on purpose to London to deliver anything intrusted to him, 
if he had not full confidence in the person, persons, coach 
and horses, to whom he committed it. Therefore she was 
not anxious that she did not hear of its arrival. " Giving a 
thing to a man as one knows," said she to herself, "is a vast 
different to poking a thing through a hole into a box, th' 
inside of which one has never clapped eyes on ; and yet letters 
get safe some ways or another." (The behef in the infallibility 
of the post was destined to a shock before long.) But she 
had a secret yearning for Benjamin's thanks, and some of the 
old words of love that she had been without so long. Nay, 
she even thought — when, day after day, week after week, 
passed by without a Hne — that he might be winding up his 
affairs in that weary, wasteful London, and coming back to 
Nab- End to thank her in person. 

One day— her aunt was upstairs, inspecting the summer's 
make of cheeses, her uncle out in the fields — the postman 
brought a letter into the kitchen to Bessy. A country post- 
man, even now, is not much pressed for time, and in those 
<iays there were but few letters to distribute, and they were 
only sent out from Highminster once a week into the district 
in which Nab-End was situated ; and on those occasions, the 
letter-carrier usually paid morning calls on the various people 
for whom he had letters. So, half standing by the dresser, 
half sitting on it, he began to rummage out his bag. " It's 
a queer-like thing I've got for Nathan this time. I am afraid 
it will bear ill news in it, for there's * Dead Letter Office ' 
stamped on the top of it." 

" Lord save us," said Bessy, and sat down on the nearest 
■chair, as white as a sheet. In an instant, however, she was 
lip, and snatching the ominous letter out of the man's hands, 
she pushed him before her out of the house, and said, " Be 



440 THE CROOKED BRANCH. 

off wi' thee, afore aunt comes down ; " and ran past him as 
hard as she could, till she reached the field where she expected 
to find her uncle. 

"Uncle," said she, breathless, "what is it? Oh, uncle, 
speak ! Is he dead ? " 

Nathan's hands trembled, and his eyes dazzled. " Take 
it," he said, *' and tell me what it is." 

" It's a letter — it's from you to Benjamin, it is — and there's 
words written on it, ' Not known at the address given ; ' so 
they've sent it back to the writer — that's you, uncle. Oh, it 
gave me such a start, with them nasty words written out- 
side ! " 

Nathan had taken the letter back into his own hands, and 
was turning it over, while he strove to understand what the 
quick-witted Bessy had picked up at a glance. But he arrived 
at a different conclusion. 

"He's dead!" said he. "The lad is dead, and he never 
knowed how as I were sorry I wrote to 'un so sharp. My 
lad ! my lad ! " Nathan sat down on the ground where he 
stood, and covered his face with his old, withered hands. The 
letter returned to him was one which he had written, with 
infinite pains and at various times, to tell his child, in kinder 
words and at greater length than he had done before, the 
reasons why he could not send him the money demanded. 
And now Benjamin was dead ; nay, the old man immediately 
jumped to the conclusion that his child had been starved to 
death, without money, in a wild, wide, strange place. All he 
could say at first was — 

"My heart, Bess — my heart is broken!" And he put his 
hand to his side, still keeping his shut eyes covered with the 
other, as though he never wished to see the light of day again. 
Bessy was down by his side in an instant, holding him in her 
arms, chafing and kissing him. 

" It's noan so bad, uncle ; he's not dead ; the letter does not 
say that, dunnot think it. He's flitted